As badly as that would have hurt, Sundar can instead take respite from the fact that his innings eventually helped India win the fourth Test by an innings and 25 runs and pocket the series 3-1 to book their much-deserving place in the World Test Championship (WTC) final later this year. India now lead the WTC table with 520 points after playing six series and winning four of them, while New Zealand, having played five series and won three, have 420 points.
Coming back to the Test, it was painful to watch Washington take the long walk back to the dressing room after he ran out of partners. His 106-run partnership with fellow-spinner Axar Patel – India’s second-highest in this Test after the 113-run stand between Pant and Washington – had all but taken the game away from England.
On a track where he batted with effortlessness against pace and spin, England crumbled to bits in 54.5 overs. The pitch cannot be blamed this time. It was just poor batting.
The batsman in Patel too joined the part alongside Washington. His 97-ball 43 was a patient knock that allowed both batting partners to settle down well in the early half of the day and take the toll on England. By the time England walked out to bat, even the gatekeepers at this newly constructed stadium knew they wouldn’t be working early morning on Sunday. Barring Joe Root’s rickety 30 and Dan Lawrence’s 50, none of the English batsmen went past 15. Crawley 5, Sibley 3, Bairstow duck (golden), Stokes 2, Pope 15, Foakes 13 – fell like nine-pins. Each dismissal, the result of an error caused by a relentless and skilful spin attack.
Coach Ravi Shastri heaped generous praise on his team and said the eventual score-line did justice to how India have played Test cricket over the last couple of years, also adding how the entire Indian camp would now look forward to the Test Championship final.
It’s been an arduous journey for this team and the coaching and support staff, staying inside bio-bubbles without any contact with the outside world for close to three-and-half-months and facing serious challenges on and off the field.
“These are tough times. We’ve not seen anything like this since the second world war. They’ve overcome all challenges to be here and achieve this. It’s been simply magnificent,” Shastri told match broadcasters after the game.
To bring about their series performances to a perfect culmination of sorts, Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel — both bowlers having got to England’s nerves the last two weeks – walked away with five wickets each in the second innings. Ashwin, in the process, recording his 30th five-wicket haul.
Pant for his brilliant, game-changing century and some remarkable wicketkeeping, and Ashwin for his 32 wickets and 189 runs, were named the Man of the Match and the Man of the Series.