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India vs England 2021: Axar Patel Impresses On Debut With Discipline, Variety and Returns

India vs England 2021: Axar Patel Impresses On Debut With Discipline, Variety and Returns

It was a long wait for Axar Patel to make his Test debut for India. But a worthwhile one! After nearly 7 years of his first international for India, Axar finally played his first match for India in whites becoming the 302nd Test player for the country when the second Test of the four-match series against England commenced from Saturday, the 13th of February. He returned with fine figures and took the big wicket of Joe Root on Day 2 for India.

It was a long wait for Axar Patel to make his Test debut for India. But a worthwhile one! After nearly 7 years of his first international for India, Axar finally played his first match for India in whites becoming the 302nd Test player for the country when the second Test of the four-match series against England commenced from Saturday, the 13th of February.

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Axar could not have chosen a more important match to make his Test debut. With India 0-1 down and for the first time in many years being challenged at their home fortress, the task was cut out for Axar. A lot was expected out of him after the disappointment of Shahbaz Nadeem in the series opener. And Axar stood up to the test.

Axar could not have chosen a more important match to make his Test debut. With India 0-1 down and for the first time in many years being challenged at their home fortress, the task was cut out for Axar. A lot was expected out of him after the disappointment of Shahbaz Nadeem in the series opener. And Axar stood up to the test.

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Axar was introduced into the attack in the 9th over with India on top having removed the two English openers. His job was to maintain pressure from one end by bowling a tight line and length while Ashwin did the damage from the other - a task easier said than done with the England captain, Joe Root was in the middle. Root had scored a match-winning double hundred in Chennai and was in the form of his life with three 180-plus scores in his last 5 Test innings. One of the shots he had employed to counter-attack the Indian spinners was the sweep.

Root had mastered this stroke since Sri Lanka 2018 and had made it the most productive shot in Test cricket in this time-frame in terms of average runs scored per wicket. India needed Root early for if he got set he had the ability to play a long innings and do what Rohit did for India.

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Nadeem had been unimpressive in the first Test. He let go of the pressure built by Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma by bowling a number of short-pitched deliveries which were cut away to the point boundary by Root and Co. He was indisciplined with his line and length bowling on both sides of the wicket and was guilty of overstepping and bowling a number of no balls - a crime for a slow bowler at the highest level of the game.

Axar’s first ball in Test cricket showed that he belonged here, at least in helpful conditions in India. It was a length delivery which spun away and bounced outside off inducing the edge from Root raising a puff of dust on its way. His second delivery was even better as it drifted towards off and turned past the outside edge. He was getting fast turn and had beaten the great Root off his first two deliveries in Test cricket.

Root went back to his favourite shot and swept Axar off the first delivery off his next over. But the left-arm orthodox bowler had his man a couple of deliveries later. Axar tossed it up outside off, again extracted some dust off the wicket and Root fell to his productive shot trying to sweep against the spin with a short fine leg in place. The ball took the top edge of his bat and Ashwin took a sitter. England had lost their captain and talisman and best player of spin. India had got the BIG wicket. Axar could not have had a bigger scalp as his maiden Test wicket. It was a huge turning point in the match. And maybe series.

Patel then beat the outside edge of Ben Stokes with a slider and the inside edge of Dan Lawrence going wide of the crease bowling an arm ball which hurried onto the batsman. Just two overs in and Axar had already showcased his variety and beaten the England batsmen a number of times also claiming the prized wicket.

He then complimented Ashwin beautifully from one end building the pressure on the English batsmen. The pair bowled 11 overs on the trot till Lunch conceding just 22 runs. The pressure built resulted in the wicket of Lawrence of the last ball of the first session. Axar had been mighty impressive giving away just 9 runs in his 5 overs which included a maiden and the wicket of Root.

Patel bowled a brilliant over post Lunch to Ollie Pope. He beat him with three different deliveries off the last three deliveries of the over - a straighter one, then a sharp turner that ripped away and then the arm ball.  He continued to bowl a disciplined line and length and the England batsmen were all at sea - sometimes getting the outside edge, sometimes the inside edge, sometimes not being able to put bat to ball.Axar returned to get another big wicket of Moeen Ali in the 49th over of the innings. That meant the last recognized batting partnership of Ben Foakes and Ali had been dislodged and India were into the tail. Ali had an average in excess of 40 in India with two hundreds and had been a major thorn in the lower order for the home team in the past. Axar made sure he did not do much damage this time around.

Axar came out with fine figures of 2-40 off 20 overs in his first bowling innings in Test cricket. Even on a responsive wicket these were excellent returns. Not only did he pick two major wickets but kept things under a tight leash not allowing any England batsman to get away. He bowled an immaculate line and length with most of his deliveries pitching in the good length area or just full or short of good length. He did not deliver even one solitary short-pitched delivery or a full-toss to either the right-handers or the left-handers - an indicator of his great control.  Axar is known for his disciplined bowling even in limited overs’ cricket - he has an economy rate of just 4.43 in ODIs and 6.83 in all T20 cricket - that is outstanding in today’s age of slam-bam cricket.

On a more helpful wicket in Chennai today, he also gave a glimpse of his other qualities as a spinner and displayed his variety - with the classic one that took sharp turn and bounce drifted in and then went away, the slider and the arm ball. He did not concede any extras - no wide or no-ball - in sharp contrast to Nadeem in the series opener.

Axar lived up to the pressure and expectations and delivered for India in what was perhaps the most challenging Test at home in the last few years. He may have just helped India to not only draw level but also gain ascendancy in the series and continue their home domination.

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