|Fourth Test, Ahmedabad (day three):|
|England 205 (Stokes 55; Axar 4-68) & 135 (Lawrence 50; Ashwin 5-47, Axar 5-48)|
|India 365 (Pant 101, Sundar 96*)|
|India won by an innings and 25 runs|
England’s series defeat in India was sealed with one final, abject batting collapse on the third day of the fourth Test in Ahmedabad.
Needing 160 to make India bat again, England found themselves 10-2, 20-3 and 30-4.
Dan Lawrence showed composure in his 50, but England were eventually bowled out for 125 to lose by an innings and 25 runs.
Axar Patel claimed 5-48 – his fourth five-wicket haul of the series – and Ravichandran Ashwin 5-47 as England lost all 10 wickets in an innings to spin for the third successive Test.
The home side had earlier extended their first innings from 294-7 to 365, Washington Sundar stranded on 96 not out when the last three wickets fell for no runs in five deliveries.
In taking the series 3-1, India earn a place in the World Test Championship final, booking a meeting with New Zealand in June. England finish fourth in the table.
The first of five Twenty20 internationals between these two sides is on Friday, with that series followed by three one-day internationals.
Familiar errors, awful strokes and comical bad luck
Their morning with the ball saw England flat and weary, a worrying sign for the batting still to come.
Immediately, those fears were realised as wickets tumbled in a frantic blur of familiar errors, awful strokes and comical bad luck.
In Ashwin’s first over, Zak Crawley became yet another to play for non-existent turn, and edged to slip. From the next ball, Jonny Bairstow sloppily turned it to leg slip.
Dom Sibley was unfortunate a sweep shot ricocheted off short leg into the hands of wicketkeeper Pant, but Ben Stokes was culpable when his sweep ended at leg slip.
A skittish Ollie Pope ran past Axar to be stumped, while skipper Joe Root looked comfortable for 30 until he was palpably lbw to Ashwin.
At least Lawrence backed up 46 in the first innings with solid defence, crisp footwork and some confident strokeplay to make his second Test half-century before becoming the last to fall, swiping at Ashwin.
England’s highest total in their last seven innings is 205, in which time they have not managed a single partnership in excess of 50.
India’s home comforts
After the shock of losing the first Test, India have roared back with big victories engineered by the mastery of Ashwin and Axar.
Not once have the hosts made a total of more than 400, but they have found enough runs from opener Rohit Sharma and lower-order contributions from Pant, Ashwin and Sundar.
In truth, this game was won in the first two days, after which India’s spinners tormented the England batsmen with their sleight of hand, natural variation and relentless accuracy.
Ashwin and Axar end with 59 wickets between them in the series, even though Axar missed the first Test.
The only disappointment from the hosts’ point of view was Sundar being denied a maiden century after elegantly moving from his overnight 60 not out.
England did not look like striking until Axar was run out, with the tireless Stokes taking the final two wickets in the next over to end with 4-89.
Manner of defeat raises questions for England
In one sense, England’s Test winter – this series was preceded by a 2-0 win in Sri Lanka – is respectable, particularly given their victory in the first match against India was only the hosts’ second defeat at home in 38 Tests since 2013.
But it is the manner in which they surrendered the initiative and the series that will come under scrutiny.
While batting performances declined and conditions were misread, this tour will also be remembered for England’s policy of rest and rotation.
The desire to look after the players’ physical and mental well-being is understandable, but England’s approach has arguably caused more problems than it has solved.
For example, Bairstow has recorded three ducks since being rested after the Sri Lanka Tests. Dom Bess looks devoid of confidence after being dropped, but then being recalled, while his replacement in the side, Moeen Ali, took a long-scheduled period of rest after being asked to stay on.
England were always likely to be up against it in alien conditions against an India team supreme on home soil.
But did the tourists give themselves the best chance of succeeding?