Root, Bairstow, Lees power England's dream

Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow put on an unbroken 150-run stand
July 04, 2022

England 284 and 259 for 3 (Root 76*, Bairstow 72*) need another 119 runs to beat India 416 and 245 (Pujara 66, Pant 57, Stokes 4-33)

England's dream run in fourth-innings chases this summer continued as they got to 259 for 3 in pursuit of 378, a record chase for them if it comes off. Alex Lees and Zak Crawley put together their quickest hundred-run opening stand in Test cricket before Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow repaired a collapse of three wickets for two runs. However, to have that half chance at the target England needed the bowlers to do their job, which they did by taking India's seven standing wickets for an addition of 120 runs to the overnight lead of 257 runs.

When England bowled in the first half of the way, they extracted uneven bounce from the pitch, and Jack Leach found enough assistance to have an analysis of 12-1-28-1, the wicket being the dangerous Rishabh Pant, who became the first India wicketkeeper to score a hundred and a fifty in an overseas Test. The ball didn't do much for India at the start; when they got the ball changed in the 21st over, it brought them three wickets. Root and Bairstow had to be watchful against the reversing ball for a bit, but they still managed to add 150 unbeaten runs at 4.56 an over.

England began the day with James Anderson and Root, perhaps because the latter had got Pant in the first innings, but it looked like the start of a flat spell for England. The first seven overs brought India 27 runs without playing a shot in anger, but Stuart Broad brought them the luck they badly needed. Cheteshwar Pujara, on 50 overnight, cut a short and wide ball straight to backward point to be dismissed for 66.

This opening paved the way for a hostile spell from Matthew Potts, who peppered Shreyas Iyer with the short ball before having him caught at square midwicket. Immediately Ben Stokes brought on Jack Leach, who has been cannon fodder for Pant in Test cricket. Pant swept him for four first ball. When Leach began his next over, he had conceded 151 runs to Pant in 97 balls in Test cricket. Off the second ball of the over, Pant tried a revere-sweep to counter his wide defensive lines, but ended up tickling it to slip to be out for 57.

India led by 330 at this moment with four wickets in hand. All through the series, India's lower order has been the thorn in England's side, but on this one final occasion they let England shut the game down.

Ravindra Jadeja kept farming the strike without taking any risks on the first three balls of the over, which India possibly did to give the pitch the best chance to wear down. This also gave England the chance to have attacking fields for the other batters whenever they got strike. Potts had Shardul Thakur caught at long leg with a top edge on the hook, and Stokes continued the short-ball barrage. It was a brave call because the short ball had worked to their detriment at Lord's and in the second innings here. And, for once, it worked as Stokes ended the innings with a reversing length ball to get Jadeja to play on before taking Bumrah out with another bouncer.

England have scored 279 for 5, 299 for 5 and 296 for 3 to win their last three Tests batting last, but this was 378, on an uneven pitch, against a team that had its full first-choice attack. England also had openers who, at least on the outside, looked not certain of their position. What a day they chose to come good.

The positive intent was on show right away. Lees charged at Mohammed Shami the second ball he bowled and got four through midwicket. When India tried Jadeja early, he drilled the first ball of his first over for four through mid-off, reverse-swept for four the last ball of that over, and slog-swept for four the first ball of the next over. Crawley showed much better judgement outside off, making the bowlers bowl at the stumps, and showed how good he is off the pads or down the ground when they did.

They were not batting like batters with Test averages of 25 and 27 nor would it have looked like they were chasing 378 if you had just walked in without knowing the score. The field spread, and the funky shots stopped. Lees kept rotating the strike, and Crawley began improving his strike-rate as he started to get drive balls. India's coach Rahul Dravid was seen chatting to the match referee David Boon, possibly seeking clarification on why the ball was not getting changed for them. As he chatted, he must have seen Crawley drive Thakur through extra cover for four to take England to 80 in just the 17th over.

India finally got the ball changed in the 21st over by which time Lees had brought up his fifty, the first at more than a run a ball for a regular England opener since 2011, and the two had added 106. With the replaced ball, Bumrah brought himself back and produced immediate results. Crawley left outside off as he had been doing, but this ball moved back in late to knock the off bail over.

Ollie Pope fell to the first ball after tea, poking at a shortish one outside off, which held its line. The first ball of the next over brought Lees' wicket, who was caught ball-watching when an inside edge from him had gone behind square. Losing three wickets in the space of three runs, against a ball that was now talking, England needed to stem the tide.

Root and Bairstow did that and more, but batted positively while doing so. The first bit was difficult for Bairstow with the ball now reversing. He kept fumbling for the ball, aware of his traditional weakness against the one that comes in, but it was when the bowlers switched the shine that he got in trouble. He was 14 when he drove hard at what turned out to be an outswinger, but Hanuma Vihari, for some reason fielding at second slip in place of Shubman Gill or Iyer, dropped him. He was 39 when Pant dived full length to his left but couldn't collect a tickle down the leg side.

Apart from those two chances, Root and Bairstow batted without much bother. Root tried a couple of reverse-sweeps off Jadeja, who bowled over the wicket for the majority of the day, but remained fairly classic in his brisk run-scoring for the rest of the innings. Bairstow, who had scored many of his boundaries by going over the infield in the first innings, appreciated the in-and-out fields and the only shot he played in the air was the pull off Siraj for a flat six.

The innings so far could be divided in three neat phases: the first 20.5 overs for 106 runs and no wicket, the next 15.1 overs when the ball moved and brought India three wickets for 35 runs, and 118 runs in the next 21 overs when the ball went soft. In all India conceded 134 runs in boundaries, the second-most they have given away in the first 57 overs of a fourth innings.

The day began with high probability of souring a memorable summer of chases for England, but it ended as a reminder that this could be India's third straight away defeat despite setting decent targets.

Disclaimer: This news is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by Cricday. Source Link