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Ollie Pope’s knock of a lifetime, Bumrah's GOATed spell & more

article_imageTALKING POINTS
Last updated on 27 Jan 2024 | 11:54 AM
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Ollie Pope’s knock of a lifetime, Bumrah's GOATed spell & more

Here are the key Talking Points from Day 3 of the first Test between India and England

Ben Duckett plays his best innings in India, yet 

Ben Duckett entered Day 3 knowing he had an average of 13.25 in India, pretty much a walking wicket against the off-spin of Ravichandran Ashwin

He knew that the odds were going to be against him, and he knew that a herculean task lay ahead of him, with his side trailing by 190 runs in the toughest country to tour in.

Effectively, before he went in to bat today, Duckett knew that the stage was set for him to fail. 

Amidst this kind of a backdrop, the 29-year-old produced his best knock in India to date, unabashedly playing his own fearless brand of cricket to drag himself to a very well-compiled 47. 

Duckett got out to spin very early in the first innings, and on that occasion, he got out trying to defend the ball. Today, he walked in with the mindset that he would live and die by the sword, endlessly employing reverse-sweeps, and the plan worked like a charm. 

A whopping 56.41% of Duckett’s total runs against spin today came via sweeps, with the reverse-sweep alone yielding 17 runs. He hit Axar for a hat-trick of boundaries through point using the said stroke, and also frustrated his nemesis Ashwin with the ploy. 

For someone who’s looked like a walking wicket against spin in India all his career, Duckett actually seemed steady at the crease, and it was his aggression that enabled the same.

He was eventually undone by a snorter from Bumrah, but his knock today will give both himself and England a lot of confidence going forward.

Jasprit Bumrah is simply a level above every other bowler 

You really have to feel for opposition batters. As if facing Ashwin, Axar and Jadeja in these conditions is not enough, they also have to deal with Jasprit Bumrah when the ball is reversing viciously.

Around 100-ish for 1 post lunch, England were gliding along comfortably. The two batters, Pope and Duckett, were both mildly comfortable against the spinners and were also scoring quickly.

It was at this point that Rohit Sharma brought Bumrah back into the attack, in the hope that his talisman would trouble the England batters by generating reverse-swing.

What followed was an extraordinary spell of reverse-swing bowling from Bumrah, who looked like he could genuinely take a wicket EVERY SINGLE BALL HE BOWLED!

Not only did Bumrah reverse the ball back into the batters viciously, he also took it away and deceived the batters with slower balls. He did EVERYTHING.

The stunning passage of play culminated in him eventually dismissing Duckett and Root in quick succession, beating both batters for pace on their inside-edge. While Duckett’s off-stump went for a walk, Root was trapped right in front.

Shades of Oval 2021.

Ollie Pope has a statement knock to his name - and it’s a knock of a lifetime

Prior to today, Ollie Pope had batted 28 times against the Big Two (Australia and India) and had not registered a single hundred. In fact, in the said knocks, he’d only passed 50 twice.

Yet England had no second thoughts about drafting him straight into the XI for this series (post his return from injury); such is the faith Ben Stokes & Brendon McCullum have in his ability.

After Pope’s showing today, you can sort of understand why England backed him to the hilt and was adamant that he would eventually come good.

READ: Ollie Pope’s Hyderabad heroics - his first real statement of intent

After averaging 19.12 in the tour of India in 2021, and after looking all at sea against the spinners in his 11-ball stay in the first innings, not many expected Pope to do anything noteworthy today, on a Day 3 track against the trio of Ashwin, Axar and Jadeja. 

However, the 26-year-old played a knock of a lifetime to not only get England back into the game, but give them a slim chance of even potentially going 1-0 up in the series.

Before today, in the last 11 years, only one batter had managed to score 120+ against India in India in the third or fourth innings. That was Alastair Cook back in 2016 in Rajkot (130).

Pope shattered the record set by Cook to finish unbeaten on 148*.

The statement knock from Pope was enabled by carefree stroke-making against the spinners. 

There was the sweep and the usage of the feet, but if there was one shot that defined his innings, it was the reverse-sweep. He attempted a staggering 20 reverse-sweeps and scored 22 runs off them, including four boundaries. Aside from these four boundaries, there were a couple of reverse paddle-scoops he executed masterfully in SKY-esque fashion, that even left Rohit Sharma perplexed. 

The biggest victory of the day for Pope, though, from a personal point of view, was mastering the Ashwin challenge. Three years ago, Pope was humiliated by Ashwin, who dismissed the right-hander 4 times at an average of 13.3. At one point, it looked like Pope would get dismissed if Ashwin was simply brought into the attack.

Today, however, the right-hander overcame his toughest challenge by trusting both his defense and offense. In the end, he finished with 41 runs against Ashwin off just 42 balls, maintaining an SR of 97.6 and a control percentage of 81.0% against the veteran.

If - and it’s a big if - but if England go on to win this Test, you can guarantee that Pope’s knock is heading straight into the Hall of Fame, alongside Kevin Pietersen’s 186 at Wankhede. 

Were Axar and Jadeja guilty of bowling too short today?

Indisputably, England were outstanding with the bat today; they played fire with fire and the approach paid off.

However, at the same time, were India actually at their best with the ball in hand?

Between them, the two left-arm seamers Jadeja and Axar conceded 170 runs in 41 overs, which is an E.R of 4.27. The England batters played some brilliant shots but both Jadeja and Axar strayed too short too often.

On a slow, Day 3 wicket, the pair struggled to hit that sweet spot consistently. While 21.2% of Jadeja’s deliveries were short, a whopping 26.7% of the balls Axar bowled were 8m or shorter. 

England were able to negate these short deliveries quite comfortably. 

The need of the hour for both Axar and Jadeja tomorrow will be to correct the length and hit that corridor of uncertainty a lot more.

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