India captain Virat Kohli on Thursday said poor batting and not the pitch was responsible for the day-night third Test against England winding up inside two days and described the performance of batsmen on both sides as “bizarre”.
Kohli insisted there were no demons in the pitch, which was once again a topic of intense debate. The Indian captain, who won the match after losing the toss, 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.
“The toss result didn’t go our way but I don’t think the quality of batting was at all up to standards from both teams,” Kohli told former India cricketer Murali Kartik at the post-match presentation.
“I know England got bundled out early, but even with our innings, we were 100 for 3, hoping to make many more than we ended up with. Just a lack of application from both sides. A very good pitch to bat on - especially in the first innings - and it felt like the ball was coming on nicely with the odd-ball turning. It was just, I would say, below-par batting from both teams. Our bowlers were much more effective and that’s why we got the result,” the 32-year-old said.
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.
Kohli termed the proceedings as bizarre.
“I feel that’s just a lapse of concentration, indecision or too many things going in your head as a batter where you are playing for the turn, but getting beaten on the inside. I feel like batsmen need to trust their defence much more than they are presenting at the moment, and Test cricket is all about that - you are not going to get results in two days all the time — and this was a classic example of batsmen not applying themselves enough, and maybe that’s why it was such a quick game.”
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.
“Bumrah said that he is getting workload management while playing the game while Ishant said that he can’t get to bowl in his 100th,” Kohli joked, adding that the spinners kept everyone else out of the game, with special praise for Axar.
“The spinners were outstanding in this game, and there was no room for the others to come into the game. A lot of guys didn’t get into the match, and it was just a bizarre game. I don’t think I have ever been part of such a Test match, where things move so quickly, and you wrap it up in two days.”
“When Jaddu got injured, I’m sure a lot of people [in the opposition] must’ve been relieved. But this guy comes in, bowls probably faster than Jaddu, from a greater height. I don’t know what’s the case with Gujaratis and left-arm spinning allrounders, they seem to be a nightmare for batters,” Kohli said.
“It’s a testimony to his hard work, his accuracy, which is exactly why we picked him. It’s impossible to sweep him, it’s impossible to defend him all day. For Axar to come in and do this is outstanding.”
About Ashwin, Kohli said that he is so pleased a player of his calibre plays for India.
“We all need to stand up and take notice of Ashwin’s contribution to Indian cricket. I told him that from now on, I’ll call him ledge [short for legend]. Getting 400 is an outstanding achievement, and still so many games and years to go for India. In Test match cricket, he is surely a modern legend and we’re just lucky to have him in our team. As a captain I am so pleased he plays for us.”
England skipper Joe Root said 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.
Root said it was India’s “high-quality bowling” that made the difference.
“The plastic coating on the ball gathered pace off 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,” he said.
About his own bowling performance, he said: “I think it sums up the wicket if I am getting a five-for.”
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 when asked if Test cricket has been easy for him so far.
“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.
You can watch the full post-match presentation here.
(With PTI inputs)