England vs India: 4th Test, Day 2 – Hanging on the telephone

An abiding memory of this Test, for occasionally they happen, will be the increasing irritation within the household with the fall of every wicket, English or Indian. Perhaps this is not how most will see what has unfolded over the first two days of a match that has threatened to go at fast forward, but then not everyone lives with someone who has a ticket for day four. In the same way I recall a drive up to Edgbaston in 2015 listening to day two shouting at the radio as to whether any Australian, any Australian at all, could bloody bat. As it turned out, Mitchell Starc and Peter Neville could, somewhat, so we did get some play to watch. Still, with these two teams, hoping for a full fourth day is always going to be a bit of a gamble, and there remains the distinct possibiluty that tomorrow could see the game done and dusted. And there will be sulking if so, but the good news is that the pitch appears to be becoming easier to bat on rather than harder, certainly judging by fewer wickets falling today.

England did reasonably well with the bat, pleasingly so given the lack of any contribution from Joe Root this time around. Ollie Pope was the top scorer, batting fluently and with purpose, to the point that his dismissal, dragging one on to his stumps was a real surprise. Of all the more recent England batsmen, he is the one that looks most at home – when he’s going well. Or to put it another way, his trials and tribulations leading to him being dropped were perhaps the most disappointing, because his batting envelope looks a lot larger than many others who have come in. Still, there’s no harm in being dropped, it’s all about how a player comes back. Let’s see.

Primary support came from Chris Woakes, last man out for 50 to go with his 4 wickets in the first innings. Much discussion centres around the disparity between his performances at home and those away from home. His batting average in England is around 36, away it is 19. His bowling average at home is 22, while away it is 52. It’s hardly unusual for any cricketer to perform better at home, but the gap is so huge it is hard to understand. Sure, his style is very much that of someone you’d expect to do better in English conditions, but it’s extremely disappointing how poor his away record is. And yet another way of looking at this is to wonder why he isn’t a permanent fixture in the side at home, when fit. His away record might well be poor, but his home one is astonishing. So far this Test, he’s shown why.

Decent support came from Jonny Bairstow, before being trapped lbw to a ball coming back into him for 37 – a depressingly familiar weakness. Moeen Ali did what late career Moeen has done a lot, which is to say played some gorgeous shots, and then got out to one that was….agricultural. But from 62-5, a lead of 99 will have been in wildest dreams territory, especially so given the batting fragility so prominent in this series.

India’s turn to bat again, and surely they would do better than first time around. And so far they have done, it would be too much to say they saw the day out without any alarms, but nor did England look like they were about to run through them either. Which is why it’s fair to say they have batted well, and have reduced the deficit down to 56.

More of the same is required, in fact much more. To be in with any kind of chance in this game, India still have to be batting by at least tea tomorrow, and to be in with a realistic chance, they have to bat the day. In normal circumstances this wouldn’t seem the most onerous of requirements but both these sides have demonstrated a quite exceptional ability to fall in a heap with the bat, which is why a lead of 99 feels so significant. Still, it’s also true that most would have expected India’s batting line up to outperform England’s, so maybe this match will be the one where they show their capability. England are certainly on top, and India now lack any margin for error. But a normal day’s play tomorrow and it means a happy camper who can head up to the Oval on Sunday to watch some cricket. This, more than anything, is the priority in this corner of Outside Cricket Towers.

Oh yes. Short of overs. Again. No one cares, we get it.

10 thoughts on “England vs India: 4th Test, Day 2 – Hanging on the telephone

  1. Mark Sep 3, 2021 / 7:17 pm

    Seems to be getting a bit easier to bat. If India make 350 I wouldn’t put much money on England scoring 250 to win the match batting last under pressure.

    If India bat most of tomorrow you might get a really interesting days cricket on Sunday. England might need a spinner tomorrow. Can Moeen and Root take some wickets?

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  2. Miami Dad's Six Sep 3, 2021 / 7:37 pm

    I don’t hate Pope. I can see that he’s got a good First Class record, at least – and he has shown glimpses of being a Test bat on a few occasions. Sometimes a youngster’s form will be up and down but they are worth persevering with, but in this case you can see the mental clarity benefits of a break from the ECB environment. 81 doesn’t exactly scream nailed on for the next 15 years, obviously. I guess I’m arguing for a greater rotation of these batsmen who are neither here nor there.

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  3. pktroll (@pktroll) Sep 3, 2021 / 7:46 pm

    As I am going tomorrow, I am rather glad that India didn’t lose too many wickets so that I at least can get to see a reasonable amount of play. In years gone by India used to bring a decent batting lineup (and sometimes a whole lot better) but have a pop gun seam attack. This time it is the other way around although I wasn’t convinced with the support acts this time.

    Kohli was too slow to bring on Jadeja when the support seamers were getting tonked with some bizarre fields being also set for the tail. It is only that the pitch looks flatter and the weather better than the first day that India at least have a chance of setting an awkward score for England to chase. Even a total of above 200, I would not be confident of England chasing down. We’ll see how it goes….

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    • Mark Sep 3, 2021 / 9:27 pm

      I think you should get a full days play tomorrow. Unless India collapse in a heap. In fact it may get frustrating if you are an England fan if wickets don’t fall quickly.

      Like

      • Miami Dad's Six Sep 3, 2021 / 9:52 pm

        Day 3 at the Oval with decent weather forecast should be a good time to bat. India have seen off the first 16 overs of the new ball and have no excuses for not scoring at least a similar total to today’s play, 280-7.

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  4. Mark Sep 4, 2021 / 1:33 pm

    Only one wicket down at lunch and a lead of 9 runs. England could be in trouble by the end of today. It sounds like England may have bowled a fraction short.

    Even if it’s easier to bat on a score of 200 under pressure will be very challenging with this batting line up.

    Good news is if you have a ticket for tomorrow you should get some cricket.

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  5. dArthez Sep 4, 2021 / 5:45 pm

    Too early to say of course, but looks like Root offers more control than Moeen. Can England really risk Root risking his back in Australia? I am sure they can (the medical team is exemplary after all), but whether it is wise …

    Obviously picking a specialist spinner is such an outrageous idea, and it will never catch on.

    14 overs unbowled, 47 minutes remaining, and bad light may cut today’s play short. It should also be noted that Pujara caused a bit of a delay with an injury scare. At the moment it is 227/3 for the day, and that would be a good result for India. A lead of 171, with still a bit of batting to come could result in a rather challenging chase for England tomorrow.

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    • Mark Sep 4, 2021 / 5:58 pm

      I think England are already in big trouble. The lead is going to stretch to over 250, maybe 300.

      The lack of a spin option is again a blind spot with England. Four years ago in the Ashes down under they would only play Moeen as the batsman/spinner. They refused to consider playing Mason Crane who they would only play at Sidney. They didn’t take Rashid on the tour.

      What made it even worse was Moeen had a hand injury so could not bowl properly.

      Although England did well to recover from five down for next to nothing yesterday, they didn’t score the big runs on the improving conditions, Batsman gave it away so a score of 400 was never on the cards. Also England dropped catches on day one which could have restricted India even more.

      Ifs and buts I know, but England are not a ruthless side.

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    • dArthez Sep 4, 2021 / 6:18 pm

      They also dropped Rohit twice (when he was on 8 and 31 or something of the sort) this innings, and he duly made a ton.

      Fielding has been a noticeable Achilles heel for England as well. Finally some improvement behind the stumps (Buttler not playing tends to help) , but no one seems to connect the dots, that picking specialist bowlers or keepers results in a reduction of runs one needs to score as well.

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