India beat England by a massive innings and 25 runs in the fourth and final Test in Ahmedabad to secure a 3-1 win in the series and with it book a place alongside New Zealand in the final of the World Test Championship (WTC) at Lord’s in June this year. While the match was set-up by a brilliant century stand by Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar, the spin wizards R Ashwin and Axar Patel returned with a fifer each to rout England for 135 – their sixth below-200 score in eight innings in the series – to hand India a big series win.
India vs England: Virat Kohli’s Team Wins By Inns & 25 Runs; Clinches Series 3-1; To Face NZ In WTC Final
It has been a long and challenging journey for India and despite all the hurdles and problems with respect to Covid-19 and bio-bubbles, restructuring of the points system and injuries on an arduous tour Down Under, the team has come out on top and finished as the number one ranked team in the ICC WTC Points Table.
India have ended with 520 points and 72.2% PCT (Percentage of Points) from 6 series and 17 matches just ahead of New Zealand who ended with 420 points and 70% PCT in 5 series and 11 matches. India won 5 of these 6 series and 12 of the 17 matches.
Their journey started with a 2-0 sweep against the West Indies in the Caribbean in 2019. Ajinkya Rahane (81 and 102) produced two top knocks under pressure to seal a massive 318-run win at North Sound while Hanuma Vihari, with 111, was their star in the 257-run victory at Kingston.
India then hammered South Africa 3-0 at home with three huge wins – two by an innings and the third by 203 runs. The series gave rise to a new avatar of Rohit Sharma – as opener in Test cricket for India. He scored a hundred in each innings at Visakhapatnam in his first Test as opener for India and followed that with a double hundred at Ranchi.
India vs England: ‘Man-of-the-Series’ Ravichandran Ashwin Wins the Numbers’ Game
India continued their home domination with a 2-0 sweep against Bangladesh at home late in 2019. They thrashed the visitors by an innings in both the Tests which included the Day and Night Pink Ball encounter at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata – India’s first Test match under lights. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav with 12 wickets each were the standout performers for India with the ball in the series.
The 2-0 loss in New Zealand early in 2020 was India’s only blemish in a near perfect campaign in the inaugural edition of the WTC. However, they came back strongly with a stunning 2-1 win in the four-Test Border Gavaskar Trophy in December 2020 – which was their first Test series after nearly a ten-month break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Against all odds, without their captain and with injuries to several top players including their pace quartet, controversies on and off the field and tough bio-bubble protocols, India went on to record one of the greatest victories in their Test cricket history against a full strength Australian unit in their own backyard. After being routed for 36 – their lowest score in a Test innings in the Pink Ball Test in Adelaide, they came back to level the series at the MCG led by an inspirational hundred from stand-in-captain, Ajinkya Rahane.
India kept discovering new heroes throughout the series while some old ones showcased their class time and again. Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishabh Pant, Hanuma Vihari and R Ashwin defied the Australian attack and produced the save of the century helping India draw the third Test at the SCG. Washington Sundar, on debut and Shardul Thakur then changed the match on its head with their partnership in the decider in Brisbane before Shubman Gill, Pant and Pujara gunned down 328 in the fourth innings in one of the greatest chases in Test history!
A change in the points system had made India’s task of making it to the WTC final stiffer and more challenging. To make matters worse, they lost the series opener against England in Chennai. But this Indian team, under the inspiring leadership of Virat Kohli and watchful eyes of Ravi Shastri had not learnt the meaning of the words ‘Give Up’!
Rohit Sharma produced one of the finest hundreds registered by an Indian batsman at home and was the difference between the two teams in the second Test at the same venue. Ashwin returned with 8 wickets in the match while Axar Patel, on debut, bagged 7. Patel was India’s hero at his home state and returned with 11 wickets in the match as England were bowled out for 112 and 81 in the two innings in the Day and Night Test in Ahmedabad – the first time they had been dismissed for an aggregate of less than 200 in India.
India still needed to secure a draw in the final Test at Motera and were in trouble in the first innings having lost six wickets with not even 150 on the board. India’s new generation – Pant and Sundar combined and registered a match-changing 113-run stand for the seventh wicket. Ashwin and Patel then bagged a fifer each to hand India another innings victory and more significantly with it a win in the series and a place at Lord’s in June – a place they thoroughly deserved!