Axar Patel was left out of the T20Is against South Africa for reasons only the management knows, but the left-arm spinner continues to post irresistible showings in the shortest format.
As it stands, Axar is not a lock in India’s first-choice T20I XI but it’s hard to look at his recent form and not see him as one of the first names in the line-up.
In the first T20I in Mohali, the left-arm spinner finished his spell with 2/23 off 4, picking the key wicket of Rahmanullah Gurbaz.
Today in Indore, on a batter’s paradise, he followed it up with yet another stellar performance, conceding just 17 runs off his 4 overs while picking up two wickets. One of Axar’s two scalps on the night was the huge wicket of Gulbadin Naib who, on the night, played the best knock of his T20I career.
Batting on 57 in the 11th over, connecting every ball cleanly, Gulbadin was on a tear: he looked set for a mammoth score. With six balls left in his spell, Axar *had* to deliver, and he did — he foxed Gulbadin masterfully and forced him to chip one to mid-wicket.
His strike — which also ended the dangerous 31-run stand between Gulbadin and Nabi — effectively prevented Afghanistan from breaching the 200-run mark on the night.
Axar has always had the X-factor in him, but he now seems to have added consistency to his game.
Four games in a row now, he's bowled his full quota of overs and has finished with an ER below 6.00.
3/16 vs Australia in Raipur
1/14 vs Australia in Bengaluru
2/23 vs Afghanistan in Mohali
2/17 in Indore today
Remarkably, all four spells have come on true surfaces, where the bowlers have had little to work with.
Dating back to the start of 2023, Axar has now picked up 15 wickets in 14 innings at an ER of 6.75. This despite having played on several batting paradises, such as the ones in Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram, where close to 450 runs were scored in each match.
Of late, the left-arm spinner seems to have found a real sweet spot to hit against the right-handers. Across the last 41.5 overs he’s bowled against right-handers, Axar has taken 13 wickets at a staggering economy of 6.1.
His lengths have been impeccable, but equally, the damage is being done by the change of pace.
His two dismissals on the night serve as perfect evidence for the same. While he rushed Ibrahim Zadran by pushing a fullish one into the right-hander (that went straight and castled him), the dismissal of Gulbadin involved him pulling the length back and taking all the pace off the ball. Gulbadin was through the shot early and paid the price for it.
So far, in this series, the left-arm spinner has been a class above the other Indian spinners. Across two games, he's bowled 8 overs while picking up four wickets and conceding just 40 runs. In comparison, Sundar & Bishnoi have bowled 13 overs and have conceded 124 runs at an E.R of 9.53, taking just two wickets.
India have made it clear that Ravindra Jadeja is the first choice for the No.7 slot, but Axar continues to do his best.
He, at least, is turning into a very reliable entity with the ball. Going by his recent numbers, even if you discount his batting, the all-rounder is putting up a serious case to be a first-choice pick in the T20I side.
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