India vs England: Disciplined bowlers halt English charge on Day 3, help hosts collect crucial lead at Rajkot

India vs England: Disciplined bowlers halt English charge on Day 3, help hosts collect crucial lead at Rajkot

Feb 17, 2024 - 22:30
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India vs England: Disciplined bowlers halt English charge on Day 3, help hosts collect crucial lead at Rajkot

Ben Duckett’s scintillating century on Day 2 of the third Test between India and England would have brought back flashbacks of Ollie Pope’s game-changing 196 in Hyderabad, which helped the visiting team pull off a stunning victory from a near-hopeless position. India had posted 445 on the board in the first innings. England scored nearly half of those runs in just 35 overs for the loss of just two wickets thanks primarily to Duckett’s blitz.

The southpaw was both majestic as well as audacious with his strokeplay, from sweeping and reverse-sweeping the spinners with ease to cutting, punching and pulling pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj from time to time, collecting boundaries almost at will.

What was even more perplexing was the fact that the Indian bowlers looked helpless when Duckett, Ollie Pope and the other English batters were running wild. The Indian attack could do little to stem the flow of runs even if they did succeed in collecting a couple of wickets, one of which helped Ravichandran Ashwin join the ‘500 club’ in Test cricket. Things only got worse for the home team after stumps with veteran off-spinner Ashwin getting ruled out of the remainder of the third Test due to a family emergency back home, forcing him to fly out of Rajkot at a moment’s notice.

Despite the solid first innings total, India skipper Rohit Sharma needed something special from his bowling department if the hosts were to fight their way back into the game. They desperately needed a solid first innings lead the way they did in Visakhapatnam, which gave both their batters as well as their bowlers plenty of cushion in the second half of the second Test and eventually played a key role in the 106-run series-leveling victory.

To say that the bowling department fought back in the following day would be a bit of an understatement — they were a completely different unit on the ‘Moving Day’ of the Rajkot Test, breathing down the English batting unit’s neck and rarely giving them the room to wriggle free on Saturday after allowing them to dictate terms for the better part of Friday.

Resuming from their overnight score of 207/2, England would lose eight wickets for just 112 runs to get bundled out for 319. The collapse was even more dramatic after lunch when they lost five wickets for just 29 runs, despite starting the session with the two Bens — captain Stokes and wicketkeeper-batter Foakes — at the crease.

India, giving the cricketing world another reminder of why they are such a lethal force in their own backyard, walked away with a solid 126-run first innings lead as a result of the carnage.

A complete performance from the Indians

The toast of India’s markedly improved bowling performance on a Rajkot wicket that still is a happy hunting ground for batters undoubtedly was Siraj, who led the way with figures of 4/84. The pacer, who had an indifferent outing with the ball at his home ground in the series opener, had succeeded in trapping Pope LBW in the evening session of the opening day, but had also conceded 53 runs from nine overs.

While Siraj was the pick of the bowlers, it was by no means a one-man bowling performance like that of Tom Hartley’s 7/62 in Hyderabad and Jasprit Bumrah’s 6/45 in Vizag. The Indians needed an early strike on Day 3 if they were to try and eke out a first innings lead, and Bumrah did just that by striking in the fifth over of the day. Joe Root, who was batting on 9 overnight, ended up reverse lapping a full delivery straight to Yashasvi Jaiswal, who pulled off a terrific reaction catch at the slip cordon that was right up there with Rohit’s grab to dismiss Pope in Vizag.

Kuldeep Yadav, who had bowled six wicketless overs on the opening day, would then strike in the very next over by having Jonny Bairstow trapped LBW for a duck with a delivery that turned in sharply after pitching outside off, leading to an easy decision for the umpire though the batter thought otherwise and burnt a review on his way back to the dressing room.

The danger, however, was by no means over for the Indian team at that point. Duckett was still at the crease and had struck a couple of boundaries in one over from Bumrah, and would soon go past 150 for only the second time in his Test career. The manner in which Kuldeep dismissed the centurion was reminiscent of how Ashwin would get rid of batting icon Virender Sehwag — by bowling absolute rubbish and challenging the batter’s ego in the process. Kuldeep fired a wide half volley to the well set opener, who ended up cutting the ball straight to Shubman Gill at cover to perish for 153.

There was a similar plan in place to get rid of Stokes just when his partnership with Foakes was starting to threaten the hosts, with Jadeja enticing him into a wild slog towards the leg side with a tossed up delivery that landed outside off.

Had the England captain connected on that one, he could’ve easily cleared the cow corner fence for his first six of the day; instead, he would hit off the toe end of the bat that would result in a simple catch for Bumrah in the deep. Foakes would depart the very next delivery albeit off Siraj’s bowling, chipping the ball that appeared to have stopped on him straight to Rohit at mid on.

Stokes has the ability to produce those game-changing knocks and it was his 88-ball 70 in Hyderabad that helped England get close to 250 from 155/7, runs that would prove crucial later. With him and Foakes back in the hut, though, it was a clean-up job for the Indian attack thereafter. And Siraj excelled at that with a couple of searing yorkers that resulted in Rehan and Anderson’s dismissals on either side of Hartley getting stumped off Jadeja’s bowling.

“We had only four bowlers and we had a responsibility. We knew they would attack so we spoke about sticking together knowing that they would make a mistake. We didn’t plan anything much, we were waiting for them to make a mistake.

“I knew the yorker would be a good wicket-taking option. The important role for a bowler is to bowl six dot balls, we know they’re not used to playing out six dots in a row,” Siraj said in a chat with the broadcasters after stumps, revealing how the bowling unit rallied and came up with such a strong response on Day 3.

Things would then get even better later in the day as Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill would help India recover from the early dismissal of skipper Rohit in their second innings, with the former further stamping his authority on the English bowlers by slamming his second century in as many Tests.

India ended the day on 196/2, with Jaiswal having retired hurt after going past the three-figure mark, and despite the fact that they are a little handicapped at the moment with Ashwin’s absence, they are already staring at the prospect of victory with two full days left in the Test.

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