Left-arm spinner Axar Patel’s dismissals of Jonny Bairstow in both innings was very Ravindra Jadeja-like. Playing just his second Test, Patel beat Bairstow on the inside edge for a leg-before decision in the first innings as the batsman played for the turn.
Then, he bowled a straighter one that sneaked through his defences in the second innings to hit the stumps as Bairstow again shaped up to cover the turn — only to realise, on both occasions, that there was no turn.
That is something Jadeja does extremely well on Indian wickets where there is turn.
None of the two, Jadeja or Patel, turn the ball but they bowl a tight line, giving nothing away.
Jadeja, who is yet to recover from a thumb fracture he suffered in Australia, has paired with Ashwin successfully over the last eight years of Test cricket in India, helping them remain unbeaten in Test series at home since 2012-13.
When India last lost a series at home, in 2012-13 against England, Jadeja and Ashwin were yet to form a pair with the left-arm spinner making his debut only in the last — drawn — Test of that series.
The two — Ashwin and Jadeja — have taken 348 wickets in 33 Tests they have played together.
It came as no surprise then that India’s sole concern in the bowling department ahead of the current Test series against England was the absence of left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who is yet to recover from a thumb fracture. Jadeja’s accuracy, variations in pace and minimal turn are important assets to confuse batsmen on wickets that aid turn. Axar Patel, however, has stepped into his shoes well.
The Gujarat left-arm spinner picked his second successive five-wicket haul -5/32 on Wednesday, after 6/38 in the first, for match figures of 11/70.
Patel stuck to an accurate line in both the innings across the two Tests and allowed the pitch and batsmen’s nerve to do things.
“Axar is good at getting one to skid on and one to turn,” said England opener Zak Crawley, who himself fell to Patel as England’s fourth wicket after a half-century.
That created confusion, to which England batsmen succumbed. Not just confused by which ball to play and which to ignore, but where to play, on front foot or back foot.
Former India left-arm spinner Maninder Singh feels both Axar and Jadeja know their limitations and that serves them well.
“The similarity between Jadeja and Axar Patel is that they know their strengths. They don’t go out of the way to do things they don’t know. They know what their capabilities and limitations are. They both know that they can’t bowl classical spin of using flight etc. That (knowing their limitations) is their biggest strength and is the most important thing,” Maninder told IANS.
“They know what they can do and they stick to that.”
The 55-year-old former spin bowler says that having a coach like Ravi Shastri who, too, played within his limitations, has helped.
“If you see Shastri’s batting, he would score off the hips, with flicks but would avoid cover-drive. Only after reaching a century, he would try that. Otherwise he would stay away from it. Ravi knew his strengths and knew the cover drive wasn’t his strength. Similarly, these two boys (Jadeja and Patel) know their strengths.”
On Wednesday, Axar said that he stuck to wicket-to-wicket line as there was nothing else to do.