Kolkata: England will rue a below-par total of 205 after electing to bat in the fourth and final Test at Ahmedabad with the spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel doing the damage for the hosts all over again on Thursday.
Patel took four while senior partner Ashwin had three to end England’s innings in the final session. At close, India were 24 for one after having lost Shubman Gill without score - and the visitors will be desperate for early breakthroughs on the second morning to throw the gauntlet against a strong Indian batting line-up.
The note of regret for failing to make the most of perfect batting conditions was apparent in Ben Stokes, who took the fight to the rival camp with a counter-attacking 55 while Dan Lawrence (46) also looked self-assured during his stay at the wicket.
“We’re more than capable of scoring at least 300 on that pitch,” Stokes said afterwards. “It’s frustrating, but we can’t dwell on it too much.
“Overall, it’s a much better wicket than the last time we played here,” the allrounder said in reference to the last Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium which England lost in two days.
Patel returned to haunt England again after Joe Root elected to bat. Dom Sibley made two before he inside-edged a delivery onto his stumps and in the left-arm spinner’s next over, Zak Crawley stepped out to chip the ball to mid-off and depart for nine.
Mohammed Siraj, who replaced Jasprit Bumrah in the squad, struck the biggest blow with a perfect inswinger which caught the England skipper before the wicket for five.
Jonny Bairstow looked determined to make amends having scored a pair of ducks in the third Test but Siraj trapped him lbw soon after the lunch break for 28.
Stokes, for whom this was the 24th Test fifty, showed his class when he hit Ashwin and Washington Sundar for sixes and then reverse-swept Patel on way to a spirited 55. Sundar dismissed Stokes lbw with a sliding delivery to cut short his stay.
The recalled Lawrence missed his fifty after charging down the track and missing the ball from Patel to be stumped. Indian spinners claimed eight of the 10 English wickets on a pitch which looked quite different from the one used for the third Test in which 30 wickets fell in five sessions.
James Anderson, however, gave England a strong start with the ball by dismissing Shubman Gill lbw for a duck with his third delivery.
“It was a batting wicket, and it was coming onto the bat nicely, so we planned to bowl patiently and keep bowling at the same spot,” Siraj said.
England also recalled off-spinner Dom Bess while dropping quicks Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer.
England (first innings)
Z. Crawley c Siraj b Patel 9
D. Sibley b Patel 2
J. Bairstow lbw b Siraj 28
J. Root lbw b Siraj 5
B. Stokes lbw b Sundar 55
O. Pope c Gill b Ashwin 29
D. Lawrence st Pant b Patel 46
B. Foakes c Rahane b Ashwin 1
D. Bess lbw b Patel 3
J. Leach lbw b Ashwin 7
J. Anderson not out 10
Extras (b3, lb5, nb1, w1) 10
Total (75.5 overs, all out) 205
Fall of wickets: 1-10 (Sibley), 2-15 (Crawley), 3-30 (Root), 4-78 (Bairstow), 5-121 (Stokes), 6-166 (Pope), 7-170 (Foakes), 8-188 (Lawrence), 9-189 (Bess), 10-205 (Leach)
Bowling: Sharma 9-2-23-0, Siraj 14-2-45-2 (nb1, w1), Patel 26-7-68-4, Ashwin 19.5-4-47-3, Sundar 7-1-14-1
India (1st innings)
S. Gill lbw Anderson 0
R. Sharma batting 8
C. Pujara batting 15
Extras 0b 0lb 1nb 0pen 0w 1
Total (12.0 overs) 24-1
Fall of Wickets : 1-0 Gill
Bowling: Anderson 5 5 0 1; Stokes 2 1 4 0; Leach 4 0 16 0; Bess 1 0 4 0.