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England's persistent bowling plans that pinned India down in Ranchi

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Last updated on 24 Feb 2024 | 01:48 PM
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England's persistent bowling plans that pinned India down in Ranchi

Both sides waited for things to happen like it was a staring contest but India were the first to blink

England had a field day on Day 2 of the Ranchi Test. On a day when India were expected to take charge in the contest, the visitors turned up with accurate bowling plans and execution. More than that, they were patient - they waited for things to happen and ensured to keep the proceedings tight until those things happened. 

India, on the other hand, were timid. They also waited for things to happen but on a pitch that showcased variable bounce as the game progressed, they were the first to buckle down. India ended Day 2 at 219/7, still 134 runs behind England’s first innings score of 353. 

Everything fell into place for England with the ball. To begin with, James Anderson scalped Rohit Sharma for his first single-digit score of the series. Shubman Gill and Yashasvi Jaiswal added 82 runs for the second wicket in the only fruitful phase of the day’s play for India. 

The 20-year old off-spinner Shoaib Bashir was the star of the day. Brought in to bowl in the ninth over, Bashir bowled 31 overs unchanged, ending the day’s play with the figures 4/84, including the wickets of Gill, Jaiswal, Rajat Patidar and Ravindra Jadeja. Bashir ran through India’s middle-order, one scalp at a time. 

Bashir’s spell was the epitome of England’s persistence. He bowled 75% of his deliveries in the good length area and only 10% in the full length. Although, his tall height coupled with the variable bounce in the pitch meant even his fuller deliveries created doubt in the batters' minds. 

All four of his wickets - two against right-handers and two against left-handers - were produced from nearly the same length. Gill and Patidar’s wickets were a case of attacking the crack that led to sharp turn towards the stumps. 

England brought Bashir early but the left-arm spinner Tom Hartley had to wait till the 32nd over for his first over. 

In this series, Jaiswal has often started slow but has bumped up his scoring rate later on. Post the first 40 balls in the innings, he has a strike rate of 93.1 against left-arm spinners. By keeping Hartley away, England curtailed Jaiswal from accelerating. 

In addition, England kept a pacer at one end until Bashir and Hartley bowled in tandem from the 32nd over. Ollie Robinson consistently bowled off cutters to Jaiswal, troubling him outside the off stump. Jaiswal had a false short percentage of 28.1% against Robinson, at least 14% more than any other bowler. 

By keeping Hartley away and Robinson in, England disturbed Jaiswal’s rhythm. 

In the final session, India scored 88/3 in 35 overs at a run rate of 2.5. For a major part of the evening session, Bashir and Hartley bowled unchanged - from over 32nd to 67th. As they focussed on pitching the ball in the right area, none of the Indian batters tried to shift the pressure back on the England spinners. 

Throughout the day’s play, Indian batters charged down the track on only 13 deliveries out of the 312 balls bowled by England spinners. Most deliveries were hit straight to the fielders arranged in a conventional manner by Ben Stokes inside the ropes. This is probably where India missed someone like Cheteshwar Pujara, who would constantly step out against the spinners. 

After Day 2 in Rajkot, Mark Wood said, “It felt like a long innings, there was a period of play where India didn't really go anywhere, the game stayed the way it was.” The final session felt the same as the hosts were eager to fight it out but without moving forward in the game. 

On the first day, England pulled the game back by a methodical partnership between Joe Root and Ben Foakes. On Day 2, they were patient with the ball. India, with three wickets left, need to get as close as possible to England’s first innings score. The Hyderabad defeat, the only time they have chased in the series, will play on their mind, making any target above 200 a tricky task for the Men in Blue. 

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