|Third Test, Ahmedabad (day one)|
|England 112: Crawley 53; Axar 6-38, Ashwin 3-26|
|India 99-3: Rohit 57*|
|India trail by 13 runs|
England put in a feeble batting display to crumble to 112 all out at the hands of a dominant India on the first day of the third Test in Ahmedabad.
The tourists completely surrendered the advantage of winning the toss in the day-night Test, succumbing to left-arm spinner Axar Patel’s 6-38.
Zak Crawley, returning after missing the first two Tests with a wrist injury, made an attractive 53 – as many runs as his team-mates combined.
Crawley was the second batsman to fall in a collapse of four wickets for nine runs, part of an overall slide of the last eight falling for 38.
On the day the world’s biggest cricket stadium was officially opened, India were 34-2 in reply, with a wicket apiece going to Jofra Archer and Jack Leach.
Captain Virat Kohli joined Rohit Sharma for a third-wicket stand of 64, only for England to get the huge boost of Kohli chopping on off Leach for 27 just before the close.
Rohit remains unbeaten on 57, with India 99-3 and holding a golden opportunity to go 2-1 up with one match to play.
England crumble on biggest stage
The magnitude of this contest – perhaps England’s most important overseas Test outside of an Ashes series since they won in India in 2012 – was only surpassed by the magnificent new 110,000-seater stadium.
In contrast to the hosts’ three spinners, England chose three frontline pace bowlers, with Archer joining the reunited James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
As it turned out, there was enough encouragement for bowlers of all kinds to suggest both approaches had merit, but the make-up of either attack is almost immaterial because of England’s horrible performance when batting conditions were probably at their best.
While there was turn, at least six batsmen were dismissed by deliveries that did not deviate as the timid and confused tourists were outskilled by Axar.
Later, when they came to field, England were visibly frustrated when decisions went against them, firstly when second slip Ben Stokes was adjudged to have grounded a Shubman Gill edge off Broad and, later, when the third umpire swiftly decided Rohit had avoided being stumped.
Axar runs through England
For all of the questions over England’s rotation policy, this was their first-choice top six – Rory Burns and Dan Lawrence have been dropped, rather than rotated.
And while it can be said that Jonny Bairstow, the first to fall playing down the wrong line to Axar, was rusty after being rested for two Tests, Crawley missed the same amount of time with his injury and was infinitely superior to the rest, driving and clipping with sweet timing.
At 74-2, England were progressing well, only for Ravichandran Ashwin to crucially remove Joe Root, the captain going back to a full delivery that would have clipped leg stump.
Three overs later, Crawley was lbw to Axar in almost identical fashion to Bairstow and the rest of the innings was little more than a procession.
A befuddled Ollie Pope was bowled by Ashwin playing for turn, Stokes was leg before to one that Axar got to skid on and Archer – the start of England’s long tail – was bowled by Axar.
Leach and Broad did all they could before Ben Foakes, who clung on for 58 balls for 12, was the last to be undone by non-turn, bowled making room to Axar.
India take control
After being humbled in the first Test, India roared back in the second and have taken control of the third with a performance befitting the pomp and pageantry that went with the opening of the new stadium.
With 40,000 spectators inside, perhaps the only things that went wrong from a home point of view were a couple of floodlight glitches that momentarily held up play.
Axar, in only his second Test, was metronomic with his accuracy, Ashwin’s tricks were a constant danger and pace bowler Ishant Sharma marked his 100th Test by having Dom Sibley caught at second slip.
When India came to bat, England could not match their control with the ball, leaving Rohit to cash in with a mix of power and deft touches.
England’s frustrations over umpiring decisions were perhaps misplaced – Stokes did appear to ground the catch off Gill – but the tourists were able to rally, with Archer having Gill miscue a pull and Leach trapping Cheteshwar Pujara leg before without scoring.
Kohli looked in ominous touch and was dropped by Pope at gully off Anderson on 24, only for Leach, the bowler when Rohit survived Foakes’ swift glovework, to produce the sort of straight delivery that accounted for so many England batsmen.
‘England don’t seem to be improving’
Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “The England players don’t seem to be improving and that is a concern.
“A lot of the batsmen have been in the sub-continental conditions for a number of weeks now and would have been facing lots of spin. Today they got done by a very clever left-arm spinner who kept bowling straight.”
England batsman Zak Crawley: “We have very strong seamers and back our seamers on any surface. We didn’t help them with the lack of runs but we can put that right in the second innings.
“Selection is above my pay grade but I think that was the way they were looking at it. If we had got more runs we could have helped our bowlers out a little bit more.”