At the beginning of play today, the match was finely poised with all three results possible. By stumps, the odds of either team winning seemed virtually unchanged. And yet, in spite of this, it was a great day of Test cricket with tension and drama throughout. I complain a lot about various aspects of the sport, but games like this remind me why I love it.
The day began with all eyes on Anderson, England fans hoping that he could break through India’s top order in the morning. Instead, it was Mark Wood who knocked out both Indian openers. Virat Kohli followed soon after, reaching far outside off the edge a wide delivery from Sam Curran to England’s keeper. Kohli has struggled overseas in recent years, averaging just 21.36 outside India in the six Tests he’s played since 2020. India have a wealth of batting depth, and I don’t get the sense that he is quite as well loved in India as Tendulkar was near the end of his Test career, perhaps Dhoni as well. Whilst he’ll certainly see out this tour, I could see him be encouraged to ‘retire’ from Test cricket if his form doesn’t improve in the next year or so. Joe Root had a dip in form himself before a resurgent 2021, but England don’t have any young batters seriously pressuring him for a place in the side like India.
England were rampant at this point, looking to take a few more cheap wickets and finish off the match today. Instead, an obdurate batting display from Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane kept the hosts at bay as the two Indian batters were in for almost half the day and dragged the game back to something approaching parity.
Something which genuinely annoys me is when people, and this includes a large portion of the media, insist that batting strike rate is of any real importance in Test cricket. Aside from a few, fairly rare situations (a challenging run chase on day five, for example), it really doesn’t matter how quickly you score your runs. Every Test team in the world would prefer a batter with a batting average of 60 and a strike rate of 30 to one with an average of 30 and a strike rate of 60. And yet, despite this, there is a constant narrative that slow-scoring batters are putting pressure on their teammates. I think Rohit Sharma trying to hook a bouncer for six but instead toe-ending it to Moeen Ali or Virat Kohli reaching two feet outside off stump and edging the ball to Buttler probably put more significantly pressure on India than Cheteshwar Pujara playing cautiously.
I like aggressive batting as much as the next person, but I often appreciate innings like those from Pujara and Rahane today even more. Partly I enjoy the growing frustration of the fielding team as they throw everything into trying to finagle a wicket, but also because this is something which is unique to Test cricket. A match in The Hundred has 200 deliveries, Pujara and Rahane’s partnership lasted 297. There was tension and drama throughout, unlike most white ball matches where I usually only bother to watch the end of the second innings. Those looking to replace Test cricket with a three-hour music concert interspersed with some cricket are cutting off their nose to spite their face.
As the day reached its conclusion, England finally managed to take a few more wickets. In particular, Moeen Ali drew two edges from Rahane and Jadeja. Whilst I’m happy both for England taking wickets generally and Moeen doing well in particular, the English batters might not particularly look forward to the prospect of facing Ravindra Jadeja on a pitch which seems conducive to spin and has had the odd ball stay low. Any target over 200 could be very tricky indeed.
One thing which potentially makes England’s route to victory even more difficult are the overs lost in the game so far. After managing 90 overs on the day one, neither team has achieved this rather fundamental aspect of cricket in the following three days. Today finished 8 overs short, although England might have managed five or six more had bad light not intervened. The fielding teams on Friday and Saturday had no such excuse, when 13 overs went unbowled. Altogether, we have seen 21 overs less overs than we should have done with the only day which actually delivered the allotted deliveries being the one where it rained several times! Apart from cheating paying customers out of extra cricket, those 21 overs might make a huge difference in terms of whether either team can force a result tomorrow.
India’s captain made something of a spectacle of himself in the last few overs, seemingly gesticulating to the umpires that the game should be halted due to bad light whilst England were bowling their spinners. Trying to shorten the day’s play is rarely going to endear you to the paying public such as ourselves, and is at best gamesmanship. Kohli might be said to have a very Australian approach to fair play in cricket: That something can only be wrong if the opposition are doing it.
Thanks for reading my post. If you have any comments, please leave them below.
The hoohaa over strike rate thing is particularly stupid given we’ve 5 Tests in 6 weeks and this is already becoming a bit of a war of attrition with bowlers dropping like flies. I’m sure Root would have loved Pujara to hole out after scoring 40 at a run a ball just to save some miles in Jimmy’s legs.
I make it advantage India still, just about, although with a chase between 150 and 200 it only takes one good knock to get there (that’s if England even decide to chase it). Why on earth did they leave out Ashwin?
My money is on the draw. England will have to knock over the last four wickets with the new ball tomorrow pretty quickly or they will be hanging on I suspect.
Yes, run rates and strike rates are ridiculous in Test cricket. But it seems to be something the media uses when they don’t like a certain player. If the Indian batsman bat till lunch tomorrow and add only fifty runs it will be very useful.
It will be funny if one side is short by either a couple of runs or one wicket from winning at the end. It will serve them right for the lost overs.
You either get Test cricket or you don’t. All four results are possible going into the final day. If you don’t like that, and prefer a game of the hundred then so be it.
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I do not agree that Kohli is the equivalent of Michael Clarke – a decent but unloved performer. He will certainly be allowed to choose when he retires.
And unless you have the average and – underlined – strike rate of a Sehwag; I agree strike rate does not matter. No India side today would prefer a Kris Srikkanth over a Navjot Sidhu. The sole arena where this matters is if your name is Compton – not Denis – and someone called Cook is playing. Ditto Carberry if not Sibley.
Still it is possible that England can still lose tomorrow.
England losing is always possible. On a spinning pitch, doubly so.
Betfair are offering 13/5 against an India win. I’ve got some of that. If Root were to fail, what else is there?
It pains me to say this because I hate the ECB but this team are fighting. They’re, Root aside, seriously limited, in the batting department but that they are still in the game is not just down to Jas Anderson.
I think that Kohli is probably a crap captain. He seems too intense and emotional. I’d releive him of the captaincy and give it to Rahane.
It is heart breaking to watch such a gripping finale played out to an empty Sabina Park is that covid or just a lack of interest in the Windies’ test team?
No, it’s Covid–no crowd allowed. I did like the vociferous support of the all of about 20 “spectators” working in the ground though–it felt a bit like a village match.
Cracker of an ending, wasn’t it? That’s where not making complete roads for test macth pitches gets you.
Amazing ending. Got to love cricket. Also, thank you. Good to know
Kohli is a poor captain. Has not won an IPL, or a major tournament as a captain, and when Kohli went home from Australia after the first Test (the infamous 36 all out), Rahane took over, and absolutely transformed the team’s fortunes.
Honestly, if it were up to me, I’d make Rahane captain, and let Kohli just focus on his batting.
I’d be interested in Dmitri’s opinion, but for me the focus on strike rates feels part of the way baseball style stats have crept into everything. Once upon a time nobody counted assists in football.
The other thing I blame is the cult of managerialism. Applying business analysis that was designed for production lines to anything whether or not it actually translates.
After the dream start of getting Pant in the second over with the score on 198 (lead just over 170), England have allowed Shami and Bumrah to poodle along and both to get into the 20s, India leading by 230 already. By lunch the likelihood of “all 4 scores possible” will have moved to “India win or draw most likely”.
India have been terrific this morning but Englands bowling has looked toothless.
Agreed. If you can’t get Pant, and Ishant provides dogged resistance, 286/8 was on the cards (in wild Indian dreams), but now the bowlers have added nearly 100 runs. This is certainly not what I expected. Sure, conditions are not that bad for batting, but this is the Indian tail we’re talking about.
Bumrah had a pretty Chris Martin-like record. After 13 Tests he did not even average 2 runs / dismissal. But now, he has literally scored more than 50% of his career runs (of a career of 23 Tests) against England in just 2 Tests.
There was a bit of talk about India having 3 number 11’s. Certainly didn’t look like it this morning. I’m amazed Kohli didn’t declare at lunch
Very good sides when they get into strong positions know how to win. Sadly England are not a very good side. They don’t have the penetration or the ruthless nature to wrap up innings efficiently.
India already have enough runs to defend. If England are going to go for the win they will have to take risks now. Assuming they can get the final wickets before the lead reaches 300+
I have a bad feeling about this……………………..
Burns gets out in the first over.
I couldn’t watch – only just turned it back on to see we are 3 down. Damn it.
This has the potential to be one of those completely disastrous Test cricket days when everything goes very badly wrong. England have failed to take the last four wickets required and India have now declared.
England can only survive for the rest of the day. Can they bat out 60 overs? They turned up this morning expecting to win, now they have to bat thinking they may well lose.
You can’t get this in One day cricket. It doesn’t matter how many sixes you hit or how good the half time pop concert is.
Both Shami and Bumrah made their Test bests.
India declare 272 required off 60 overs. Even with the return of the white balls biffers in the lower order, I’d be amazed if England try to chase this, short of Sibley and Hameed getting ducks and a couple of batsmen getting off to an inadvertent flyer.
We are soooo fucked
Paging Mr Harrison, Paging Mr Harrison…..
Will Mr Harrison please pick up the red ECB curtesy phone please……
sooooo sooooo fucked.
I’d be surprised if England lose this.
Mind you, to lose 4 specialist batsmen’s wickets in 22 overs, while taking half of that against the Indian tail in about 28 overs does not look great …
They still have 38 overs to survive. Tony Bennett above said he has some money on at 13/5 India. Looking good at the moment.
I don’t have access to any tv coverage so don’t know if this was poor batting or good bowling. Is the pitch suddenly very difficult to bat on?
The clouds came in – so yes, conditions currently favour bowling. Then again, these are conditions that England should be more familiar with than India.
Still expect England to draw though.
Okay, I was wrong. This must rank as one of the worst England performances on Day 5 in living memory (other than the first 5 overs, when they got Pant and Ishant).
Conditions were tricky for most part, but you can’t have the Indian bowlers adding just about as many runs as a whole England lineup managed in a completed innings.
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Moeen’s struggles against Siraj are over. Sam Curran makes England’s misery worse by being dismissed for the second time for a golden duck. Still 130 balls remaining (light permitting) with just three wickets left.
On the bright side for England, that should be Curran’s last Test for a while.