At the very venue where it had been walloped just a week ago in the opener, India taught the travelling team a harsh lesson while squaring the four-match series 1-1 with a day to spare.
In pursuit of a humongous 482-run target on a square turner, England ran out of gas on Tuesday after being outplayed for most part of the game. In its final essay, the visitor could muster only 164 runs in 54.2 overs, falling well short of its mark. Having little time to do research on the newly-introduced India slow bowler, England had no answers to Axar in the second innings.
The left-arm orthodox spinner exploited the conditions exceptionally well in the company of offie Ravichandran Ashwin (3 for 53) and chinaman Kuldeep Yadav (2 for 25). For only the seventh time at Chepauk, the spinners captured all 10 wickets in an innings. Pacers Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Siraj were brought in to bowl only when the tweakers needed a bit of a breather.
Resuming on its overnight total of 53 for three, England survived six overs before losing Dan Lawrence (26 off 53 balls). Off his first delivery in the day, Ashwin undid Lawrence by putting the ball outside the No.3’s compass. Wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant completed the sequence, catching the batsman short of his crease. Skipper Joe Root (33 off 92 balls) and southpaw Ben Stokes, two of the most experienced players in the English set-up, then tried to delay the inevitable. But hometown hero Ashwin provided the breakthrough for India once again, in the second over post the first drinks break.
The ball took an inside edge off Stokes’s bat, deflected off the pads and landed in the safe hands of Virat Kohli at first slip. Following the departure of ‘Big Ben’, England wickets tumbled either side of Lunch.
Firstly, Axar replaced his spin-bowling partner Ashwin at one end and the move paid immediate dividends. The 27-year-old removed Ollie Pope (12 off 20 balls), whose mistimed sweep shot resulted in a catch at deep mid-wicket. Kuldeep joined the party, dismissing Ben Foakes, who created his own downfall by employing the sweep. In the post-Lunch session, Axar sent back both Root and Olly Stone off his consecutive overs.
While England captain Root was unlucky to give a catch to Ajinkya Rahane in the slip cordon, Stone was trapped in front of the stumps. For the last wicket that valued 38 runs, Moeen Ali (43 off 18 balls) and Stuart Broad put on a mini exhibition. With the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 auction around the corner, Moeen grabbed the attention of the franchises with a cameo.
The all-rounder smashed Axar for three successive sixes in the 52nd over, after which the spinner was taken out of the attack. However, 25 minutes into the second period, Moeen lost his wicket to Kuldeep, who completed the formalities for India. Ashwin was rightly named the man of the match for his outstanding show with both bat and ball in front of his home fans.
Brief scores: India (1st innings) 329 all-out in 95.5 overs; England (1st innings) 134 all-out in 59.5 overs; India (2nd innings) 286 all-out in 85.5 overs; England (2nd innings) 164 all-out in 54.2 overs (A Patel 5/60, R Ashwin 3/53)