England remains unapologetic even after Bazball was unable to replicate their heroic performance from the first Test, according to Tanya Aldred’s report.
The way Ben Stokes’s team play does not feel up for debate any more. They do it their way, with gumption, and if you don’t like gumption you don’t have to watch. And if you watch, you must be prepared to take your tablespoon of cold, glutinous cod liver oil alongside your cakes and ale.
On this trip to India, England has participated in two Tests, following a familiar pattern. They managed to win the first match in Hyderabad, a remarkable feat considering the circumstances. Tom Hartley, who was making his Test debut and had a challenging first-innings bowling experience, pulled off an impressive seven for 62 figures in the second innings. Ollie Pope’s incredible 196 runs, scored under pressure on a difficult pitch, helped lead the team’s comeback in the second innings. India, who had never lost at home with a lead of three figures in the first innings, were stunned and their confidence visibly diminished.
England was defeated in the second Test on the fourth afternoon at ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium. Despite the coach’s encouragement to chase down 600, they were unable to replicate their success from the first Test. This influenced India’s strategy, as seen in Rohit Sharma’s defensive field placements against Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett when they began their pursuit on Sunday evening.
Stokes remained calm and unapologetic, stating, “We were extremely confident, as we always are. We understood that we needed to score 330 more runs and the key for us was to establish dominance early on and prevent them from getting comfortable. I commend Rohit and the bowlers for consistently regaining momentum and taking wickets to keep them in check.”
Criticism is always possible after a defeat. During the first innings, Crawley made an impulsive decision despite being in a good position, but when questioned about it, he claimed it was just his style of play and that he has improved significantly since his earlier struggles with maintaining an average in the 20s. Even Joe Root’s score of 16 in the second innings was not a textbook display. Instead of his usual cautious approach, he came to the crease ready to attack, using two reverse sweeps to score four runs in his first three balls before attempting a risky off-balance shot that resulted in a top-edge. As the commentators on TNT Sports tactfully stated, “It wasn’t a shot that usually works for him.”
However, despite the pressure to protect his injured finger, his performance under Stokes has actually improved with an average of 52.63 compared to 49.64 before. This Test match will be remembered for the incredible bowling spell by Jasprit Bumrah in the first innings and Pope’s impressive stump destruction.
In the past, a major contrast between the teams was that England preferred experienced players while India favored young and inexperienced ones, like 22-year-old Yashasvi Jaiswal who scored a double hundred in his first innings. However, both teams are now incorporating young players without hesitation.
India’s lineup included young players like 24-year-old Shubman Gill and Jaiswal, while England had 19-year-old Rehan Ahmed, 20-year-old Shoaib Bashir, and 24-year-old Hartley. The idea of playing a Test match in India with three inexperienced spinners is quite surprising. However, Stokes managed to make it successful.
After the game, Stokes stated that it was not a challenge at all. He thoroughly enjoyed it. He commended his teammates Tom, Bash, and Rehan for their performance, despite only having a combined total of five or six Test matches. He was amazed by their effort and output, which he deemed incredible. He also praised their maturity and skill, which exceeded their years. As a captain, he expressed pride in them.
On February 15, the third Test will take place in Gujarat. There will be a break in Abu Dhabi for the players to spend time with their families. This time, England will not be traveling to Ahmedabad, but instead to Rajkot. This is where they have fond memories from 2016 when Root and Stokes both scored over 100 runs. In that match, England had three spinners on their team: Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali, and Zafar Ansari.
There is a lot to appreciate and look forward to, such as Ravichandran Ashwin’s anticipation for his 500th Test wicket and the potential return of Virat Kohli. We also have Ben Foakes’ impressive glove skills and Bumrah’s thrilling performances. There’s also Sharma’s frustration with DRS decisions and Stokes’ relaxed confidence. It’s unfortunate that we have to wait another 10 days for it all to start again.