Ahmedabad, March 4
England’s batsmen lost the battle in both mind and skills with yet another shoddy performance to surrender the momentum to India on Day 1 of the fourth and final Test. Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin called the shots on the opening day of the match, which India must draw or win to qualify for the World Test Championship final.
England won the toss again and managed to cross the 200-run mark, for the first time since the first innings of the first Test in Chennai. However, a total of 205 all out is certainly not what captain Joe Root expected after electing to bat in good batting conditions.
There was some turn and bounce but the pitch was not a minefield that the England batsmen — except Ben Stokes, who made 55 off 121 balls — made it out to be.
For India, Axar Patel (4/68), Ashwin (3/47) and Washington Sundar (1/14) toyed with the visiting batsmen, whose confidence has been shattered by regular failures on turning wickets.
Mohammed Siraj played his part, removing Root and Jonny Bairstow with balls that came in, to finish with 2/45.
India were 24/1 at stumps, with the wily old James Anderson having dismissed Shubman Gill for 0. Rohit Sharma (8) and Cheteshwar Pujara (15) were the unbeaten batsmen.
England’s line-up was bolstered with an extra batsmen, and four of them got starts — Stokes, Bairstow (28), Dan Lawrence (46) and Ollie Pope (29) — but failed to go on to a big score.
It seemed that most batsmen had made up their minds that they were playing on a big turner, and were either unnecessarily aggressive or tentative.
Stokes was a cut above the rest in both defence and offence before an error cost him his wicket. Washington Sundar got him with one that angled in from around the stumps, and Stokes played for an off-break — the ball didn’t turn and he was trapped lbw.
Lawrence was ready to play the attacking game, and Pope was intent on using his footwork to deal with the turn. There was always going to be a delivery with their name written over it.
Lawrence fell when he was beaten by the away-turn when he danced down the track and got stumped.
Pope was dismissed when Ashwin changed the line of his delivery, dropping it a bit short, and Pope’s attempted flick was snared by Gill at forward short leg.
Stokes and Bairstow, during their 48-run stand, showed that with robust defence, survival and run-scoring were not impossible on this wicket. Both played the spinners close to their body on most occasions, especially on the front foot.
Yet, on this track no batsman would feel completely set, and that was true of Bairstow and Stokes.
Patel had struck early, after being brought on in the sixth over. He bowled an arm ball which had Dom Sibley (2) leaving a huge gap between bat and pad, to be bowled.
Zak Crawley tried to take the attack to Patel, but attempted a lofted shot without getting to the pitch of the delivery and was caught by Siraj at mid-off.
Root (5) got a great inswinger from Siraj, leaving the team at 30/3 inside the first hour.
After some defiance in the second session, it was in the post-tea session when the lower order caved in, the last five wickets falling for 39 runs in 14.2 overs. — PTI, TNS
Stokes upset at throwing it away
Ben Stokes, who made 55 off 121 balls, was England’s best batsman of the day, and he was very disappointed at frittering away a good start, having done the hard work by defending well for a long time. Stokes was trapped lbw by Washington Sundar with one that went straight even as he played for the off-break. “I am more disappointed that I actually got myself in and got out. Fifty is not really a (score) that will win you a Test match,” Stokes said. “After spending two-and-a-half hours, playing so well, trying to avoid getting out to a straight ball and I ended up getting out to (it), that is frustrating,” said the 29-year-old. Stokes said these are the “hardest conditions” he had batted in.