England collapse leaves India in full control of third Test

By Sports Desk February 17, 2024

England ceded control of the third Test after giving India a leg up in the absence of Ravichandran Ashwin as Joe Root’s ugly dismissal sparked a batting collapse in Rajkot.

Ashwin’s overnight withdrawal from the Test because of a family emergency meant India could only replace their premier spinner with a substitute fielder, effectively leaving them with 10 players.

But their guests were in obliging mood as Root fell on his sword to his patented reverse ramp on the third morning, with England crumbling from a competitive 224 for two to 319 all out and a deficit of 126.

Root made partial amends in India’s second dig, dismissing first-innings centurion Rohit Sharma, but Yashasvi Jaiswal’s 104 before retiring hurt helped the hosts swell their advantage to an already ominous 322 by stumps on a pitch taking increasing amounts of turn.

Root was not alone in contributing to his own demise as Ben Duckett chased a long hop after a quite brilliant 153 off 151 balls, while Ben Stokes holed out for 41 on his 100th Test as England lost their last five wickets in 38 deliveries, but the Yorkshireman’s dismissal will linger longest in the memory.

The tourists’ profligacy drew parallels with how they fared in last year’s Lord’s Ashes Test, where England were 188 for one in reply to 416, with Australia minus spinner Nathan Lyon due to injury, before a succession of rash shots saw them skittled for 325. They lost that match by 43 runs.

England’s brand under Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum has attracted admirers far and wide but they have occasionally been guilty of a lack of game awareness and that was evidenced here.

With India’s bowling stocks depleted and after a gentle start to the third day following Duckett’s swashbuckling 88-ball hundred the previous evening, England did not need to gamble.

Root had claimed 12 boundaries from 21 previous reverse ramps and only been dismissed once but, on this occasion, it appeared ill-judged to target Jasprit Bumrah as Jaiswal reacted sharply to hold on to a chance that flew to him at chest-height.

Root, who had also spilled a difficult chance off Rohit costing 104 runs in India’s first innings, walked off for 18 and has now failed to pass 30 in five attempts this series.

The dismissal was put into harsher context when Jonny Bairstow was undone by sharp turn and plumb lbw to Kuldeep Yadav for his eighth duck against India.

Duckett was not as fluent upon the resumption of his innings but still moved to 150 off 139 balls. He added just three off his next 12 deliveries, which might explain why a batter so accustomed to feeling bat on ball pursued a short and wide delivery from Yadav and toe-ended to cover immediately after drinks.

Stokes was judicious off front and back foot and looked primed to mark his milestone Test in fashion but was suckered into a slog sweep off Jadeja, with Bumrah running back to take a fine catch at cow corner just a few minutes after lunch.

Ben Foakes fell for 13 next ball after pushing at Mohammed Siraj and England collapsed in a heap, losing their last three wickets in nine deliveries.

England were back out on the field in the mid-afternoon heat, where Root shared new-ball duties with James Anderson and made inroads into India’s batting by rapping Rohit on the front pad after he had missed a sweep, with a not out lbw verdict overturned on review.

England were unable to capitalise on a small opening as Shubman Gill got off a pair before he and Jaiswal, both aged under 25, adopted a pragmatic approach that England had earlier lacked.

Only when he was set did Jaiswal start to open up, carting Anderson for six-four-four then slamming successive Tom Hartley full tosses over long-on to reach his half-century.

A double centurion in Visakhapatnam, Jaiswal moved from 50 to 100 in 42 balls, slashing Mark Wood for his ninth four to go with five sixes before a sore back saw him walk off the field before stumps.

Jaiswal contributed 155 in 195 balls with Gill, who finished on 65 not out to flog a willing but tiring England in the sweltering heat. While Hartley accounted for Rajat Patidar late on, India finished on 196 for two to become firm favourites to move 2-1 ahead in this five-match series.

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