For the third time in four Tests, England got the spin of the coin. But for the third time in as many Tests, England haven’t got the spin of the ball.
For the second match running, the visitors find themselves miles behind the curve one day into it — as India bowled them out for 205 on the opening day of the series-decider at Ahmedabad.
The hosts, who will qualify for the World Test Championship final if they avoid a defeat here, went to stumps at 24/1, with Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara in the middle.
Here are the takeaways from Day 1 of the fourth Test between India and England, another one belonging firmly to India:
India’s Axar Patel (right) celebrates the wicket of Dom Bess with skipper Virat Kohli (centre) on Day I of the fourth Test on Thursday. Image courtesy: Sportzpics for BCCI
So much of the chat around this series has revolved around one central topic, you could be forgiven for assuming the teams were contesting the ‘Pitch Wars’.
Fortunately for England, for their last crack this Indian tour, they got conditions closest to what had greeted them in the first Test — you know, that lifetime ago, when England had bossed five successive days of cricket to hand India their first Test defeat at home in nearly four years. As was the case in the Chepauk opener, England also got the first use of these conditions in the Motera finale.
This time around, it wasn’t the conditions that dictated play, at all; instead, England — the vast majority of their batsmen, anyway — fell to the conditioning of their mindsets from the weight of the last fortnight they’ve endured in India.
Dom Sibley, playing for turn against Axar Patel, offered a gap between bat and pad that could fit the Rann of Kutch. Zak Crawley, almost instantly egged on by Rishabh Pant’s “someone is getting angry” sledge, attempted to whack the ball as if he wanted to deposit it in the Sabarmati. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow were beaten for pace and movement — not spin and/or turn. Ben Stokes fell to the familiar failing of off-spin — even though it wasn’t Ravichandran Ashwin.
578/10 in 190.1 overs in their first innings of the series. 874/60 in 315.5 overs in six subsequent innings.
In contradiction to most of their recent innings of this tour, England, this time around, did have batsmen who got stuck in — four of them. Only one went beyond 50, and he too didn’t last long after getting there.
Stokes, playing this game with the added load of also being England’s second seamer, had dug in appreciably in reaching his second half-century — and his first score in excess of 25 since the 82 in the first innings of the series-opener. He kept things moving when facing Mohammed Siraj (23 off 36 balls), looked more compact in 41 balls against Ashwin than he has in a long time, and was largely in control against Patel too. And then he failed to read Washington Sundar, India’s fifth bowler.
Ollie Pope, after strapping in and making a fist of it, could consider himself unfortunate for the manner of his dismissal. But the manner of his continued struggle in facing Ashwin remained unchanged (now 45/4 from 94 balls this series).
Dan Lawrence can arguably be cut some slack for his approach to Axar, given that England found themselves seven-down at the time; it was, incidentally, only the second time in 113 attempts that Lawrence fell playing an attacking shot.
Jonny Bairstow, meanwhile, never really looked ‘in’ — playing six false shots off the first 20 balls he faced, and being out of control once every four balls for the majority of his 67-ball stay.
28, 55, 29, 46. On big-turning surfaces, or in the pink-ball Test, those would have been considerable returns. On Day One of this game, after winning the toss, that wasn’t good enough.
Yes, this is India, playing at home, on spinning surfaces. Of course, they’re bossing the batsmen. But the numerical heights hit by India’s spinners since the first innings of the series are dizzying.
The visitors took 418 runs from 127.1 overs of spin in that series-opening innings, losing only five wickets. In six innings thereafter, England’s scores against spin read 8/128, 7/99, 10/138, 9/64, 10/81 and 8/129.
Ashwin and Axar — 47 wickets between them in the series — have been astoundingly awesome.
Don’t go purely by the narratives around the pitch; against any opposition, under any conditions, these are jaw-dropping returns.
Gets a debut after India’s most crushing Test match low of all-time, and takes five in the match in a remarkable win. Becomes the leader of the pack two games later, and takes five in the second innings of the most impossible victory. Takes a wicket with the first ball he bowls on home soil, and then plays a part in a fellow bowler getting to a rare century — and celebrates more extravagantly than the centurion himself.
CricViz data at the start of this Test pointed towards something significant: in his nascent Test career, one-third of Siraj’s deliveries had swung one way, and one-sixth the other — a variation in movement that can upstage the best-laid plans, or the best-set batsmen.
In the first over he bowled to Joe Root on Thursday morning, three deliveries moved away, two jagged back in, and one was a bouncer that was uncomfortably dealt with by the English captain.
Quiet stunningly, Siraj drew 14 false shots in just his first six overs, bowled in the first 20 overs of the day.
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Make no bones about it, this was an inadequate pitch. But for most of the 140 overs it lasted, it witnessed incompetent batting by two top Test teams. And that’s what gave us this inconceivable two-day finish at Motera.
The Motera pitch, which is scheduled to host the fourth Test starting Thursday, attracted plenty of criticism after the third Test ended in an Indian victory inside two days.
After five innings, England crossed the 200-run mark but a total of 205 in 75.5 overs was certainly not what Joe Root had expected when he called it right at the toss on a day which would have ideally been best for batting.
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IND trail by 181 runs
Australia beat New Zealand by 64 runs
West Indies beat Sri Lanka by 4 wickets
Zimbabwe beat Afghanistan by 10 wickets
New Zealand beat Australia by 4 runs
Pakistan beat South Africa by 4 wickets
South Africa beat Pakistan by 6 wickets
India beat England by 317 runs
Pakistan beat South Africa by 3 runs
Afghanistan beat Ireland by 36 runs
Pakistan beat South Africa by 7 wickets
Bangladesh beat West Indies by 120 runs
Afghanistan beat Ireland by 7 wickets
England beat Sri Lanka by 7 wickets
Australia drew with India
New Zealand beat Pakistan by an innings and 176 runs
South Africa beat Sri Lanka by 10 wickets
New Zealand beat Pakistan by 101 runs
India beat Australia by 8 wickets
South Africa beat Sri Lanka by an innings and 45 runs
Pakistan beat New Zealand by 4 wickets
New Zealand beat Pakistan by 5 wickets
Australia beat India by 8 wickets
New Zealand beat West Indies by an innings and 12 runs
Australia beat India by 12 runs
India beat Australia by 6 wickets
New Zealand beat West Indies by an innings and 134 runs
Mumbai Indians beat Delhi Capitals by 5 wickets
Pakistan beat Zimbabwe by 8 wickets
Delhi Capitals beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by 17 runs
Pakistan beat Zimbabwe by 8 wickets
Pakistan beat Zimbabwe by 6 wickets
Sunrisers Hyderabad beat Royal Challengers Bangalore by 6 wickets
Mumbai Indians beat Delhi Capitals by 57 runs
Zimbabwe tied with Pakistan (Zimbabwe win Super Over by 2 wickets)
Romania beat Bulgaria by 6 wickets
Romania beat Bulgaria by 34 runs
Romania beat Bulgaria by 52 runs
Bulgaria beat Romania by 33 runs
Australia beat England by 5 wickets
England beat Australia by 6 wickets
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– India vs England, 4th Test, Day 1 | England's batting comes unstuck against quality spin again
– Test cricket: England run out of excuses as spinners make hay
– IND vs ENG: Sunil Gavaskar feels slamming Indian pitches a publicity stunt by foreign cricketers
– India vs England: Rohit Sharma finally gets 'consistent' run after seven years
– Spinners keep England searching for substance
– IND vs ENG: Ben Stokes defends England team selection after frustrating opening day
– Siraj steps out of the spin umbrella
– India vs England: Visitors throw away wicket advantage, bowled out for 205 on day one