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How India reigned at home again as England grappled with ‘Bazball’ doubts

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Dharamshala Test ends in a hurry as a young, hungry and unafraid Team India serves a marker for the future with an emphatic 4-1 series win against an England team bent upon throwing caution to the wind
DHARAMSHALA: “And I’m free, free fallin’.” As Tom Petty’s distinctive voice echoed beneath the mountains, England did some domino dancing of their own out in the middle.

They came here having already lost the series. Within three days, they lost their bearings too.
On Saturday morning, India had added only four more runs to their kitty before folding up. James Anderson had foxed

Kuldeep Yadav

for his milestone 700th wicket. There was back-slapping and celebration and good cheer. It was history in the making. Already spirits seemed high in the English camp.

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They were still a mammoth 259 runs behind but the sun was out and time was theirs to kill. A bit of application and a measured approach would have gone a long way, as India had shown on Day Two. This was a dry pitch aiding turn but by no means the minefields of spin they have traversed in these parts in the past. There were runs to be had, if you were inclined that way.
Enter

Ravichandran Ashwin

, looking to unleash his full bag of tricks in his 100th Test. Ashwin picked up his 36th five-wicket haul (5/77) and put England’s top and middle order through such a searing examination of their defensive skills that even at their sharpest, it would have been a reach to take this match beyond the third day.

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For these England batters, though, old-fashioned resistance is such a drag. Their fancy-pants batters were having none of it. Not for them the hard yards. Nor a keen perusal of the assorted, fizzing deliveries being conjured out of the fingers of India’s spin wizard. No, they would go out in a blaze of glory and not die wondering.
Ashwin had anticipated this. Given the hard new ball by stand-in captain

Jasprit Bumrah

after

Rohit Sharma

pulled up with a sore back, Ashwin proceeded to mess with the minds of England’s finest.

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Only Joe Root (84 off 128) once again stood out as the one sane man in the bedlam, trusting his defence, playing straight, picking the length. In spite of Root’s defiance, the game was over by lunch, by which time England had lost five wickets for 103 runs.
India eventually won by an innings and 64 runs within the second session, taking their series tally to 4-1 and finally asserting the kind of dominance they would have been seeking from the start.
The first Ashwin wicket was a gift, in his very first over. Ben Duckett, unsteady of footing, befuddled by the drift, decided to charge out recklessly at the fifth ball. He hadn’t taken enough time to figure out the conditions or the pitch. He was beaten and bowled.

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Sixth over, Ashwin was at it again, this time getting the other opener

Zak Crawley

, who was tied up in knots for 15 balls, unable to get off the mark, and got suitably fidgety. Wicketkeeper Jurel warned Ashwin that something was about to give. Crawley succumbed to the pressure, playing with the turn straight to Sarfaraz at forward short leg.
Last ball of the eighth over, Ashwin got into Ollie Pope’s head, the sharp turn beating everything, even the stumps, and running away for byes. The bowler’s next over, second ball, Pope unleashed the big release shot, the sweep. Except Ashwin already knew he would. The ball went on straight with the arm, the over spin and extra bounce taking the top edge of the bat to square leg.
Undeterred, Bairstow — the second 100th Test hero — came out buzzing, all adrenaline, ready for a scrap. The Indian fielders kept chirping around him. He decided to hit India’s best spinner out of the park and even succeeded for a while. Bairstow talked in sixes with a Test match to be saved, now smashing Ashwin over long-on, now unleashing the slog sweep.

Exit Ashwin, enter Kuldeep. The change to wrist spin, the change of angle, the sharper turn, it was all too much for Bairstow.
Umpire’s call did the rest. Another cameo, another wasted opportunity. Bairstow even got into a slanging match with the fielders before losing his composure and his wicket. It was the sort of approach which has given ‘Bazball’ a bad name in this series.

And

Ben Stokes

, what of him? Ashwin had taken Stokes’s wicket 12 times before this and was promptly brought back for the last over before lunch. First ball to Stokes, and scalp no. 13! The arm ball foxed the England captain, who was playing for turn that wasn’t there. It was a miserable end to a horror tour with the bat for the England captain.
This series has been closer than the scoreline suggests but here in Dharamshala, it was a rout. Having been out-batted and out-bowled over the first two days, England looked like they were simply fulfilling a contractual obligation on the third. They fell face down.

JAMES ANDERSON 700

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