IIt is prepared for a super Saturday when the decisive fourth test is finely balanced and England is once again looking back at its seamed bowlers for inspiration.
England are 56 ahead but India’s opening players calmly negotiated a difficult hour every 43 without a loss, with James Anderson again being let down by his slipfielders after Rory Burns gave Rohit Sharma a life to six and the score of 11 to zero.
India struggled hard to keep in touch with the ball and England failed to take advantage of the better striking conditions than day one as their 290 were easier than it should have been when the initiative was taken.
Saturday should be the best day of the test for batting and if India can build some confidence and form against the Sailors they could take a big step towards controlling the game. But this is a match played by two flawed batting line-ups and anything is possible, which is why it was such an intriguing series.
A 99-run lead in the first innings for England was an acceptable result of 62 for five, one of those results that allows players to say the positives and avoid the fact that it should have been more. Several batsmen were guilty of bad shots and actually only Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow were hit by good balls.
Pope was outstanding and looked long and hard at the sky as he was 19 runs short of a well-deserved first Test hundred in England. Graham Thorpe is the last Surrey product to score a Test Hundred Point on this floor and Pope really should have emulated him. Moving Bowled on can be described as bad luck, but it was a very wide ball from Shardul Thakur that Pope knew should have gone.
Moeen Ali played some fine shots in his 35 years, but he shot a harmless long ball from Ravi Jadeja to 13 overs before the second new ball and at a moment when England needed him to stay with Pope.
Bairstow was full of intent and put India on his hindfoot but had failed again in the 30s so his good form didn’t count for the fourth game in a row.
Craig Overton, the night watchman, and Ollie Robinson, two bowlers who can hit and hundreds of top scorers, offered their wickets on a velvet pillow. Overton, the night watchman, slipped a wide ball when he got a chance to play a proper inning with frontline batsmen on the other end while Robinson tried to pass a slog sweep to Jadeja that fired him as fast and flat as Joe Root is really able to play that punch for him with certainty.
Again England was grateful to Chris Woakes. His 50 was a clever innings that hit ten limits, including that up through Bumrah’s covers that were shades of Root. He put Anderson together superbly in a final wicket booth of 35, Anderson contributed one that frustrated Kohli and gave England the chance to give it their all for India with an hour before the end.
This was a big innings for Pope. In general, a team is happy to reveal one batsman a decade averaging in his late 40s (the last to retire with an average of over 50 for England was Ken Barrington) and Pope looked most likely after a good hundred against one for the 2020s he would be that decent South African attack in Port Elizabeth last year.
At the end of the tour, Root praised his calm on the crease combined with a “fire in his eyes” but an injury slowed his progress and he averaged 24 in 13 tests and tinkered with his technique like players do when they feel the heat for the first time.
He preferred to stay with England ahead of that game than play Surrey’s championship game with Durham (which was canceled due to Covid) and felt that he was better served under the eyes of the coaching staff when he tried to win Jos. to replace butler. It was noticeable that he shifted his guard further to the side of his leg, which gave his strong offside game a better chance to unfold. He looked positive without being reckless. He ran hard to rotate the stroke and was more preoccupied with only hitting six fours, three of which came in the same overflow against Thakur.
After Malan slipped, Pope rebuilt with Bairstow. Pope played three hits with real authority after a drive down the ground for four from Thakur with a crisp on drive and a powerful pull when the pair took just 9.1 overs to hit the 50s stand.
They settled in, played for lunch after the first breakout, and added 77 before the break at 4.39 and up, reducing the backlog to 52 his fifty with a cut off four from his hip.
Moeen flashed a drive on the vacant third slip, but braced himself up and grabbed another six fours as he began to dominate and threaten the innings that England needed from their new runner-up, and cashed well against the old ball But again England allowed India a way back, Moeen’s bloodlust against Jadeja cost him his wicket with a score of 222 and England only 31 lead.
When Pope and Robinson went within six balls England only had 64 runs in the lead and it took Woakes to build on their advantage by playing a steady hand and mixing orthodox shots with some inventive methods to get the ball into the gaps .
Anderson bowled better with the new ball than the first day and should have gotten his reward when Rohit flees to Burns on the second slip, but he didn’t move and it hit his boot before he went to four. Anderson turned and barely looked at his colleague. Robinson looked tired as he leaked runs at 5 a.m.
Rohit and KL Rahul played and missed but stayed calm and played with the serenity India will need this morning when there will be most of the movement before it flattens out. It’s all to play.
Pope returns to form as Root’s successor
By Tim Wigmore
A young England Test batsman hasn’t caused as much excitement as Ollie Pope has since Joe Root’s appearance. Earlier this year, Ben Stokes stated, “If there is anyone to take over Root’s records, it’s Popey.” Root himself was just as exuberant.