Kohli insisted there were no demons in the pitch, which has been called “not ideal” by several former players like Michael Vaughan and Harbhajan Singh. Kohli said the track was absolutely fine at least in the first innings and only the odd ball was turning in the game which India won by 10 wickets on Thursday.
“To be honest, I don’t think the quality of batting was up to standards. We were 100 for 3 and bowled out for less than 150. It was just that the odd ball turning and it was a good wicket to bat in the first innings,” the India skipper said in his defence of the pitch.
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Kohli said batsmen of both the sides did not apply themselves enough. Only Rohit Sharma (66 and 25 not out) and from England Zak Crawley (53 in first innings) managed to bat with ease.
“It was bizarre that 21 of the 30 wickets fell to straight balls. Test cricket is about trusting your defence. Lack of application ensured it was a quick finish,” Kohli said.
Left-arm spinner Axar Patel stole the limelight in only his second Test alongside veteran Ravichandran Ashwin by returning with match figures of 11 for 70 to earn the player-of-the-match award as India decimated England by 10 wickets to take an unassailable 2-1 lead in the four-match series.
Off-spinner Ashwin (15-3-48-4) also became the fourth Indian bowler and second fastest in the world to complete a commendable milestone of 400 Test wickets on Thursday.
Kohli showered praise on his two spinners for their match-winning efforts.
“A bizarre game which got over in 2 days. A lot of people were relieved when Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja) got injured. But then this guy (Axar) comes in. Bowls it quicker and from a bigger height as well. If the wicket has something in it, Axar is very lethal.
“I think we need to stand up and take notice of what Ashwin has done. In Tests, he is a modern day legend. As a captain, I am so pleased he is in my team,” he said.
England skipper Joe Root was in no mood to give excuses for the heavy defeat, saying the tourists failed to capitalise on a decent start in the first innings after opting to bat.
“We were 70 for 2. But we didn’t really capitalise on it. 250 on that wicket would have made it different. We will come back using this hurt and come back as a better team,” he said.
Instead of blaming the pitch, Root said it was India’s “high quality bowling” that made the difference.
“The plastic coating on the ball gathered pace of the wicket. It was high quality bowling as well. Both sides struggled on that wicket. We don’t define ourselves on a performance like this,” he said.
“We shouldn’t have any baggage from the previous games going into the last game. We have seen with the ball in hand, we can pick up wickets. I think it sums up the wicket, if I am getting a fifer.”
He also congratulated Ishant Sharma for playing his landmark 100 Tests and Ashwin for his 400 Test wickets.
Man-of-the-match Axar said his focus would remain on bowling wicket-to-wicket, a plan which has reaped him rich dividends so far in his nascent Test career.
“When it happens, it feels so easy, not so much when it doesn’t,” he joked.
“I am not thinking much. I want to continue this form. I am happy that if I am not contributing with the bat, I am doing it with the ball.
“My strength is to bowl wicket-to-wicket and not give any room…I just want to bowl as many dot balls as possible and make life difficult for batsmen,” he said.