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    India draw level as Bumrah and Ashwin beat England's bazballers
India draw level as Bumrah and Ashwin beat England's bazballers
by Alessandro Bogliari

India draw level as Bumrah and Ashwin beat England's bazballers

India made 396 (Jaiswal 209, Anderson 3-47, Ahmed 3-65) and 225 (Gill 104, Hartley 4-77) as they beat England's 253 (Crawley 76, Bumrah 6-45, Kuldeep 3-71) and 292 (Crawley 73, Bumrah 3-46, Ashwin 3-72) by 106 runs.

Jasprit Bumrah, the fastest bowler of our times, finished the job he started in England's first innings as India survived a predictably ferocious fourth-innings challenge from a team that never knows when they are beaten to seal a 106-run victory in Visakhapatnam and level the series at 1-1 with three Tests to go.

The timing of Bumrah's breakthroughs on a tense fourth day made all the difference - especially his inestimable dismissal of Jonny Bairstow on the stroke of lunch, which completed India's fifth-wicket haul and left England's chase in tatters after they had come out of the blocks in typical style.If a 399 target seemed a long shot, the 292 they chased down surpassed the previous successful chase by a visiting team in India - West Indies' 276-5 at Delhi in 1987-88.

For all their efforts, England will rue a handful of key moments that derailed their hopes - notably an lbw verdict to their most composed chaser, Zak Crawley, just before Bairstow's dismissal, and an uncharacteristically lax piece of running from captain Ben Stokes that saw off his ominously poised innings before it could get going. Joe Root, nursing an injured finger, played a wild knock of 16 from 10 balls that also raised some questions, particularly given how composed England's tail proved in the face of adversity, most notably Tom Hartley, last man out on 36 from 47 balls.

The tone of England's chase was set in the opening moments of the day. At one end, there was Crawley, all composure and calculation as he lined up India's dangerous Bumrah, restricting himself to the balls that his six-foot frame could drive with impunity. At the other end, there was Rehan Ahmed, a blur of ambitious batting as he decided to live dangerously and raid his runs before India could settle down, as he did with a brace of boundaries in Axar Patel's second over.

Rehan was not there for a long time, and Axar had the last word with a plumb lbw from round the wicket, but not before Rehan's 23 off 31 balls had helped add 45 runs in 11 overs for the second wicket. Out came Ollie Pope, the hero of the second innings in Hyderabad, and when he too went on the attack with a first-ball laser drive for four, it was clear that England wasn't going to go into a shell.

Crawley stepped back on the front foot to drive Axar through long-off for a supremely measured 83-ball half-century, but while he was attempting to provide a very Bazball definition of an anchor, Pope was business personified in the course of a fleet-footed cameo. His confidence in the sweep was a clear indication that the bounce had gone out of the surface, at least while Axar was in his sights, from whom he struck all five of his boundaries in a 21-ball stay.

The wily Ashwin, however, was a different proposition. After missing a reverse-sweep that flicked his arm through to the keeper, Pope rocked back to cut another Ashwin delivery that bounced off the surface across his bows, and Rohit at slip took a reflex chance with a flick of his left hand.

That was wicket number 498 for Ashwin, and 499 wouldn't be far behind. Whether or not Root's injured finger was a factor, England's main man played a curiously frenetic knock, even by the standards that the occasion demanded. His first two scoring shots were reverse sweeps for four - the latter ballooning off the glove over slip - before he hit Axar for six over long-off with an inside-out drill, a shot that took him past 1000 Test runs in India.

But Axar hit back with a narrow appeal for lbw that would have been upheld had the umpire's finger gone up, and two balls later Ashwin had his man with a skied slice to point as he brought up his long-on and long-off fielders, luring the big hit down the ground with one of his trademark hang-time off breaks that never quite landed in Root's arc as planned.The die was cast at 154 for 4 after 31 overs. As James Anderson had said on the third evening, England aimed to win the match in "60 or 70 overs". Even if that meant a straight race between runs needed and wickets left. And as lunch approached, it was neck-and-neck as Crawley and Bairstow built a 40-run stand for the fifth wicket, dismissing Axar and Ashwin, whose attacking line over the right-handers once again challenged both edges of the bat in that familiar subtle style.

But it was a Rohit double-switch that blew England's prospects apart. First, it was Kuldeep. He skied a top-spinner into Crawley's pads from across the wicket, earning three reds on DRS as India gambled on review. Even with all three stumps visible, Rohit correctly judged that the ball had landed on the line of leg stump, and India's ecstasy as Crawley's industrious 73 from 132 balls ended confirmed the extent to which he'd carried England's fight.

The inevitable Bumrah bowled England at lunch. Bairstow had lined him up with enough confidence to smash a couple of boundaries through the off-side in his comeback over, but Bumrah came back with a fulle- length nipbacker and umpire Gaffaney's finger went up when the ball was shown to have hit the top of leg stump. Bairstow left the crease with a volley of abuse as Ashwin celebrated loudly in his presence, but at 194 for 6, the tone of the session had changed in the space of five balls.Where there's Ben Stokes, of course, no cause is lost, and as he and Ben Foakes pieced together the innings with rare caution after the break, England nudged past 200, the halfway mark of their chase. But for once, Stokes' caution was to prove his team's undoing, as he was slow to spot the danger when Ben Foakes called him through for a quick single to short midwicket and Shreyas Iyer's direct hit caught him three inches short.

That, in hindsight, was it, but England's unwavering belief would not allow India to celebrate until the final scalp had been claimed. Hartley's composure with the bat has matched his impact with the ball in this series, and when he joined Foakes in a block-and-bash stand of 55 for the eighth wicket, the need continued to diminish at pace.

Each man landed a six apiece as Ashwin and Kuldeep strayed into their arcs, and although Hartley's flirtation with the reverse sweep almost cost him when Ashwin's 500th wicket was denied on review, it took the return of India's most lethal weapon to break this latest show of resistance. Bumrah needed six balls of his comeback over to induce a checked drive into his midriff as Foakes departed for 36, before Mukesh Kumar - a distant second in India's seam stakes - ended a tough Test on a personal high by trapping Shoaib Bashir for his first wicket of the match.

But as Hartley's off-stump took a walk like so many before it, it was fitting that the real difference between the teams was the man who delivered the coup de grace. The series is alive and kicking after a nail-biting encounter.

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