India couldn’t have asked for a better start to their campaign at the glorious rebuilt Motera stadium, which was renamed to Narendra Modi Stadium on Wednesday, as they dominated England with both the ball and the bat. With Axar Patel and Rohit Sharma leading the show for India, the hosts finished Day 1 in a position of strength.
India headed to Stumps at 99 for 3 in with Rohit Sharma (57 not out) and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane (1 not out), trailing England by 13 runs. India got off to a slow start and lost Shubman Gill, who looked out of touch, for 11 and soon after, lost Cheteshwar Pujara for 0. However, Rohit and Kohli made sure India didn’t lose wickets in a cluster with a 64-run stand for the 3rd wicket.
Kohli was dismissed for 27 in the final over of the day by Jack Leach, who holds the key to chances of England making a comeback into this Test after their insipid batting show on Day 1.
The day in Ahmedabad began well ahead of the toss as President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated the Narendra Modi Stadium in the presence of Home Minister Amit Shah, BCCI secretary Jay Shah and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju among other dignitaries. A state-of-the-art Sports Enclave which will be named after Sardar Patel, India’s first deputy Prime Minister, was also announced by Shah on Wednesday.
— BCCI (@BCCI) February 24, 2021
Axar Patel, R Ashwin run riot in Ahmedabad
Once the focus shifted to on-field action at the rebuilt stadium, where more than 50,000 supporters cheered the home team, it was India all the way. Virat Kohli might have lost the toss but neither he nor his bowlers put a foot wrong on a pitch that assisted spinners from the first session. England batsmen continued to struggle against spin as they looked jaded after the mammoth 317-run defeat in the 2nd Test in Chennai.
But it was Ishant Sharma, who was honoured by President Kovind ahead of his 100th Test appearance, to get things off the mark for India. The pacer bowled a beauty to get opener Dom Sibley edging one to the slip cordon for 0 as the Motera crowd got into action early in the match.
Virat Kohli got his bowling changes spot on and his move to bring in Axxar Patel ahead of R Ashwin worked wonders as the left-arm spinner removed Jonny Bairstow for 0.
There was some amount of resistance from Zak Crawley and captain Joe Root but it was Ashwin who removed the opposition skipper for just 17 to trigger a collapse. England went from 74 for 2 to 112-all out as their middle-order and lower middle-order were bamboozled by the high-quality spin bowling of Patel and Ashwin.
Axar Patel joins an elite list of India bowlers
Axar Patel showed remarkable consistency for a bowler who was just playing his 2nd Test as he was able to land everything on the zone. More importantly, Axar got the ball to spin and the odd balls also went straight with the arm. Ashwin, from the other end, was using the angles and his variations to trouble the England batsmen.
Most of the England batsmen, including senior pros Bairstow and Ben Stokes, kept playing for the turn when the ball went with the arm before they made the long walks back to the dressing room. It was a disappointing effort from England who blew up a good opportunity to put pressure on India after having won the toss in difficult batting conditions.
Axar Patel became only the 3rd India spinner to pick up five-wicket hauls in his first 2 Tests after Mohammad Nissar and Narendra Hirwani as he led the Indian team back to the pavillion during the innings break, receiving a standing ovation from the Ahmedabad crowd.