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Sarfaraz Khan's game against spin makes him a must in home Tests

article_imageTALKING POINTS
Last updated on 18 Feb 2024 | 01:14 PM
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Sarfaraz Khan's game against spin makes him a must in home Tests

Here are some of the talking points from day four of the third Test between India and England in Rajkot

Jaiswal - a six-hitting machine

England, on Sunday (February 18), once again felt the wrath of Yashasvi Jaiswal’s bat. The left-handed opener, who retired hurt on day three after experiencing discomfort in the back, walked out to bat on day four after Shubman Gill got run out nine short of his hundred. Jaiswal took his time once again before going berserk, including smashing James Anderson for three consecutive sixes.

Jaiswal went after every England bowler as India smashed 282 runs in 47 overs on day four before declaring and setting Ben Stokes and his men a target of 557. The 22-year-old clobbered 214* off 236 deliveries, studded with 12 maximums, the joint-most by a batter in a Test innings. Wasim Akram also smashed 12 sixes in an innings against Zimbabwe in 1996. 

Overall, Jaiswal has hit 22 sixes in this series, which is the most by any batter in a bilateral Test series. And we still have two more Tests to go. In fact, he already has 25 sixes in seven Tests, the most for any batter since his debut in July 2023. 

Sarfaraz in Indian conditions is a bank

Jaiswal rightly stole all the limelight on day four, while Gill also made a mark with his knock of 91, but one can’t ignore what Sarfaraz Khan achieved in this Test. 130 runs across two innings at a strike rate of 94.20 - the 26-year-old looked at utmost ease and became the fourth Indian batter after Dilawar Hussain (1934), Sunil Gavaskar (1971) and Shreyas Iyer (2021) to hit twin 50-plus scores on Test debut.

Having played so much red-ball cricket in these conditions, Sarfaraz had no trouble adjusting to international cricket. It’s not just the amount of runs he scored; it’s how he did it. It’s been a while since we have seen an Indian middle-order batter play spin with such comfort and authority. 113 off 115, studded with 13 fours and four maximums - this is what Sarfaraz did against spin in the third Test.

We often talk about how most Indian batters don’t sweep to disrupt the length of spinners but this can’t be said about Sarfaraz. The right-hander used all kinds of sweep shots and didn’t allow England spinners to settle in. He collected 33 runs off just eight deliveries via slog sweep and dominated Joe Root and Rehan Ahmed.

It’s not just the boundaries, Sarfaraz also maneuvered the field brilliantly. Almost every boundary was followed by a nudge through the off-side or leg-side for a single. What Sarfaraz did on his debut is what the management expected from Shreyas Iyer. 62 off 66 in the first innings and 68* off 72 in the second - Sarfaraz has done more than enough to become a regular member of India’s starting XI, at least in home Tests.

Five-wicket haul for Jadeja after a year

Before today, the last time Ravindra Jadeja took a five-wicket haul in Test cricket was in February 2023. During this period, he featured in seven Tests and picked up 21 wickets at a mediocre average of 31.8 and a strike rate of 72. Three of those Tests came at home, where he could manage only 10 scalps @ 44.3. While Jadeja the batter was producing phenomenal numbers, Jadeja the bowler had gone missing.

Even in the first Test against England in Hyderabad, Jadeja struggled against Ollie Pope and Co. 219/5 in 52 overs at an economy of 4.21 - the left-arm spinner looked clueless against the attacking England batters. He missed the second Test due to injury but made a comeback in the third game and scored a match-saving century in the first innings.

Jadeja didn’t have to do much with the ball in the first innings but came as a first change in the final innings. The surface was offering a bit of turn and that was enough for Jadeja to wreak havoc. He knows the Rajkot surface better than anyone and made full use of it. Jadeja is one of the most difficult bowlers to sweep and England found it a hard way on day four.

It all started with Pope edging one to the slip before Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root were pinned right in front of the stumps trying to sweep the left-arm spinner. The latter two were undone by the pace and turn, and Jadeja cleaned up England’s middle-order in no time. He then dismissed Ben Foakes and Mark Wood to complete his 13th Test five-wicket haul. 

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