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England die by the sword in Jadeja’s land as sweep triggers their downfall

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Last updated on 18 Feb 2024 | 11:04 AM
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England die by the sword in Jadeja’s land as sweep triggers their downfall

On Day 4, England's high-risk ploy backfired as the tourists got burnt by the Indian spinners

England, under Ben Stokes & Brendon McCullum, have been willing to live and die by the sword, and it’s a mantra that’s yielded the side great success. 

Last month, it was precisely this mindset of theirs that enabled them to win in Hyderabad and go 1-0 up in this series. 

190 runs behind after the completion of India’s first innings, the Three Lions were pretty much written off in Hyderabad even before their second innings began. However, they managed to pull off one of the most astonishing comeback victories of all time. 

Integral to this victory were the sweeps and reverse-sweeps, which enabled them to score 420 in the second innings in Hyderabad and turn around the Test. 

350 of England’s 420 runs in the second innings of the Hyderabad Test came against spin, and about 26% of these runs were scored via some form of sweeps or scoops. The reverse-sweep, primarily employed by Ollie Pope, proved to be the most productive shot (yielding 58 runs in total). 

There, the visitors employed an incredibly high-risk tactic, but the ploy ended up paying off. Astonishingly, England did not lose a single wicket playing sweeps/scoops in the second innings in Hyderabad despite the ball turning sharply. 

On Sunday (February 18), chasing a borderline-impossible 557, the England middle-order opted to employ a similar tactic but, on this occasion, the plan fell right in their face as the tourists got burnt by the Indian spinners.

In the space of 11 overs, their numbers four, five and six, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Stokes, all perished attempting to sweep. 

Bairstow was the first one to go. Entering the fourth innings having scored just 98 runs in 5 innings at an average of 19.60, the right-hander entered Day 4 desperately needing runs under his belt. In a way, Bairstow owed the team runs having registered a duck in the first innings at a crucial juncture, and having not scored a fifty all series despite being a specialist batter.

The 34-year-old gave himself two balls but then got down on his knees on his third ball and attempted to sweep a full one from Ravindra Jadeja across the line. Bairstow missed. Jadeja didn’t.

Root and Stokes batted with restraint for about 10 overs, but Root, after having ground his way to 7 off 39 balls, perished in identical fashion to Bairstow in the 22nd over, once again trying to sweep a very full one from Jadeja. 

Stokes followed suit soon after, after just five balls, but it was Kuldeep Yadav who got the better of the England skipper.

And just like that, the sweep shot had brought about the downfall of the entire English middle-order. 

If the high-risk option paid off in Hyderabad, it was quite the opposite today in Rajkot. 

Today, between them, Root, Bairstow and Stokes attempted four conventional sweep shots. They scored a grand total of zero runs while getting dismissed thrice. 

England didn’t necessarily lose this Test or this chase owing to the sweep shot. It was two hours of madness on the morning of Day 3 that ultimately ended up costing them this game.

But that’s the thing about Bazball: some days you’ll live by the sword, some days you’ll die by it. 

Today, England ended up dying by the sword, ironically enough, in Jadeja’s land. 

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