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Ben Stokes is summoned by fate, but India holds the upper hand in the third Test in Rajkot. This analysis was made by Ali Martin.
Cricket Sport

Ben Stokes is summoned by fate, but India holds the upper hand in the third Test in Rajkot. This analysis was made by Ali Martin.


England was greeted with great enthusiasm and hospitality, as the team hotel was decorated with posters highlighting their recent successes led by Ben Stokes. One of these posters encourages the team to “unfold victory” in a unique way, symbolizing the potential outcome of their captain’s 100th Test. If accomplished, this would give England a 2-1 lead over India with two matches remaining.

One of the 30 members in their group, Rehan Ahmed, could have been denied entry at Rajkot Airport on Monday. He was returning from the team’s break in Abu Dhabi but had a single-entry visa that had expired due to leaving the country.

The mistake, which was deemed irresponsible by the England team’s management in light of the issues surrounding Shoaib Bashir’s late arrival in India last month, could have had serious consequences for the team that is already dealing with Jack Leach’s injury. However, in the city of Gujarat where Mahatma Gandhi studied, the immigration officials showed kindness instead.

The issue of converting Ahmed’s 48-hour temporary document into a new visa remains, but both boards have expressed optimism two days before the start of the third Test on Thursday. The fact that Rajkot is paired with Leicester, where the 19-year-old plays for the county cricket team, could potentially aid his situation.

Stokes seemed unfazed by this as he approached his 100th cap, making him the 16th player from England to do so. He was not particularly focused on this milestone, even though it is the same ground where Stuart Broad reached this achievement in 2016. Stokes emphasized that beyond demonstrating his longevity, it is merely “one more than 99” and he still has more goals to accomplish.

However, it serves as a reflection of his growth from the bold and passionate player he was during the 2013-14 Ashes, to now being the leader of a team that reflects his own style. (Similarly, Rajkot serves as a reminder that success in cricket cannot be guaranteed, as seen when Haseeb Hameed debuted with great promise here seven years prior, yet ended up with only one international cap.)

Stokes has expressed a desire to continue his involvement in cricket as a coach after his playing days are over. His leadership skills have had a significant impact, particularly in instilling confidence in young players to elevate their performance. It would be wise for English cricket to not overlook this opportunity, similar to how one might misplace a single-entry visa while traveling to and from India.

Ben Stokes, the England captain, walks from the nets on TuesdayView image in fullscreen

Currently, the ongoing five-game series is in an interesting position as England initially gained the upper hand in Hyderabad but was later equalized by India in Visakhapatnam. In the upcoming third Test in Rajkot, it will be interesting to see if England’s strategy of eliminating the possibility of a draw, as reiterated by Stokes on Tuesday, will be successful on a traditionally consistent playing surface.

Everyone was focused on the field and the possibility of a green tinge staying on the pitch. In 2016, a similar match took place where six centuries were scored. The match ended in a tie with India losing six wickets while attempting to chase a conservative target of 311 within 49 overs, as set by Alastair Cook. At the time, Virat Kohli, who was leading India, attributed the failure of the surface to break up to the grass that was intentionally left on it.

Stokes reminisced about the game, stating with a wry smile that he thought they had the upper hand, but ultimately lost with a score of four to nothing. He acknowledged that in such situations, taking risks is necessary in order to achieve a win. He also expressed his preference for losing while attempting to secure a victory rather than settling for a draw.

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In addition to winning the crucial coin toss, England will also have to strategize against Jasprit Bumrah and figure out how to contain the in-form Yashasvi Jaiswal. To successfully push forward and secure victory, the team will need to show both collective aggression and individual determination once they are in a good position.

Out of the 15 times England has won a Test match in India, all except three have relied on at least one century being scored. A similar performance to the second Test of this series, where Zak Crawley had the highest scores of 76 and 73 in both innings, and the rest of England’s batters had 11 scores between 20 and 47, is unlikely to be successful.

Stokes was contemplating replacing a spinner with Mark Wood, while Rohit Sharma was thinking about making up to four changes to the successful team. Sarfaraz Khan, who has an average of 69.85 in first-class cricket, is likely to make his debut, and Dhruv Jurel will also be behind the stumps. The poor performance of KS Bharat with the bat is the reason for his being replaced, despite his excellent wicket-keeping skills. Among the bowlers, Mohammed Siraj is returning from a rest, and Ravindra Jadeja is expected to play on his home ground, hoping that his injured hamstring will not affect him.

Despite the absence of Kohli from the series, the hosts are still considered favorites for the match. Although there is a lot of attention on Stokes and England’s return to the country, it does not guarantee an easy victory for them.

Source: theguardian.com