Patel effortlessly fills Jadeja void in India's spin attack


FILE PHOTO: Cricket - Sri Lanka v India - India Team's Practice Session - Colombo, Sri Lanka - August 30, 2017 - India's Axar Patel catches a ball ahead of their fourth One Day International match against Sri Lanka. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

(Reuters) - Ravindra Jadeja has had little competition for his spot as India's preferred spin all-rounder over the last seven years but that may have changed following Axar Patel's match-winning display in the third test against England in Ahmedabad.

With Jadeja recovering from a thumb injury, Patel was called up to assist spin spearhead Ravichandran Ashwin in the four-test series against Joe Root's men.

Patel missed the series opener with a knee injury but impressed in the second match, claiming his maiden five-wicket haul in his debut test in Chennai.

The 27-year-old followed that with a match haul of 11-70 on a dustbowl in Ahmedabad where India triumphed inside two days in the pink-ball test on Thursday.

India captain Virat Kohli said Patel had filled in seamlessly for 'Jaddu'.

"When Jaddu got injured, I'm sure a lot of people (in the opposition) must have been relieved," Kohli said after their 10-wicket victory.

"But then this guy comes in, bowls probably faster than Jaddu, from a greater height.

"It's impossible to sweep him, it's impossible to defend him all day. For Axar to come in and do this is outstanding."

While spinners from both sides feasted on wickets on the turning track, Patel troubled batsmen with sharp turn but got most of the victims with a skidding straight delivery.

"He made the batters play most of the balls, which is important on a wicket like that because you never know which one is going to turn and which one is going to come straight," team mate Rohit Sharma said a video conference.

"He's got solid skill-set, bowls a little wider from the crease and a slightly slingy action as well. It makes it very difficult for the batsmen, whether to leave or play."

Patel knows he is yet to match one aspect of Jadeja's all-round game after managing 12 runs in three innings.

"Wickets are coming, so nobody is pointing it out at the moment but I know that if I can't score with the bat in the next few games, people would start criticising me," Patel said after collecting player-of-the-match award.

"But at least I'm contributing with the ball, and I'm positive about it."

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Peter Rutherford)

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