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Akash Deep's memorable maiden spell rocks back England in Ranchi

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Last updated on 23 Feb 2024 | 06:50 AM
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Akash Deep's memorable maiden spell rocks back England in Ranchi

The Bengal seamer's opening spell cut down on England's only fruitful phase of in the series - their top order partnerships

India have had a theme going on in this series - individual brilliance over a spell of play and debutant rising above expectations. 

Akash Deep, India’s Test player number 313, fulfilled both cases on the morning of Day 1 of the Ranchi Test against England. The Three Lions, staying true to their nature, had another aggressive start. The opening wicket has been one phase of play where England have done well in the series despite conceding the advantage to the hosts in the series. Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett forged another such stand, adding 47 off only 56 balls for the opening wicket. 

In the seventh over, Crawley struck Mohammed Siraj, India’s lead pacer in this Test, for four boundaries in a row - three fours followed by a six. England were again flying high with their openers in the middle. And that is when Akash produced a gem. 

As a seamer, Akash’s strength lies in moving the ball both ways from a consistent length. The first wicket had exactly that as the ball nipped away from a good length from 'round the wicket. He drew Duckett into a defensive prod and produced an outside edge to the wicketkeeper. Partnership broken. 

The way this series has gone, England’s batting average has dropped down post the opening wicket stand and Akash, with his maiden Test wicket in his first spell, opened the door for India. 

He added two more to his tally bowling a marathon seven-over spell to kick off his journey in whites for India. He can bowl in high 130s and is skiddy - a Mohammed Shami-like trait in his bowling. The injured Shami, one would imagine, would have been a great fit for this track.

However, Akash ensured India don’t miss him (and Jasprit Bumrah, who is resting for this fixture). Two balls later, he rushed Ollie Pope on the front foot. Akash went wide of the crease, seaming the ball back in. The ball skidded, beating the inside edge to hit Pope’s pad while his head fell over the off stump. The umpire gave it not out but in another LBW review adjudged the ball to be hitting the top of the leg stump. 

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And soon, he had Crawley on his haunches, exploiting the batter’s propensity to leave a gap between his bat and pad to hit his off stump. 

England, in the blink of an eye, moved from 47/0 to 57/3. Akash’s maiden spell read 7-0-24-3. 

The 27-year old’s first wicket would have come a lot sooner in fact if not for his struggles with the no balls. Akash had sent Crawley’s off stump for a walk in the fourth over. However, he had overstepped. Since his first-class debut, Akash has bowled 37 no balls in Ranji Trophy cricket. No another Bengal pacer (his state team) has bowled more than 10 in this time period. 

But Akash rose above that trouble to replicate that delivery to Crawley, eventually getting him out in the 12th over. 

In Test cricket, wickets are largely a function of persistent bowling. Akash was excellent on that front against both the right and the left-handers. 

It is the same skill that brought him 11 wickets for India A against England Lions in two games. Seven of those dismissals came through a stump-to-stump line - bowled and LBWs. 

England finished the morning session 112/5 in 24.1 overs. The spinners added two more as England effectively lost another session in the series, their seventh consecutive session lost from the last two days of the Rajkot Test. Akash pulled the game in India’s favor. No other pacer in the series has more than two wickets in the first 15 overs of the innings. Not Jasprit Bumrah, not James Anderson. It has been a series for the old ball to do the tricks. Akash already has three with the new cherry. 

You don’t see Indian pacers with such returns in their maiden spell while bowling in India. But the Bengal seamer has already put his hand up at a strange time when the Men in Blue were reaching the bottom of their pace-bowling reservoir. 

Yes, the opportunity came on the back of senior players’ unavailability but Akash deserved every bit of it with a persistent show in domestic cricket. And in line with Shami and Mukesh Kumar, he is the third active seamer from Bengal in Indian cricket at the moment.

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