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Even though the series has ended, there is still plenty for England to strive for in the final Test. This was stated by Ali Martin.
Cricket Sport

Even though the series has ended, there is still plenty for England to strive for in the final Test. This was stated by Ali Martin.


Monday in Dharamsala was truly magnificent, with the clear sunlight bouncing off the majestic snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas. The atmosphere was refreshing and the streets of McLeod Ganj were bustling with not only locals and Buddhist monks but also tourists eager to find spiritual enlightenment. Additionally, early spectators for the fifth India-England Test match on Thursday also added to the liveliness of the town.

The cricket players from England were also affected, although unintentionally. They typically take time off between games, and their first break during this tour was spent in Abu Dhabi. The second break was divided between playing golf in Bengaluru and staying at a resort hotel in Chandigarh. However, due to heavy rain over the weekend, the facilities at HPCA Stadium were unusable for outdoor training.

At this point in time, there are no worries about the game. Instead, a group of players and coaches, led by Ben Stokes, went for a morning run in the mountains before some of them took a refreshing swim in a nearby waterfall. This is referred to as “recovery” by elite athletes. Even 41-year-old Jimmy Anderson joined them, which is a good sign for his chances of making personal history this week.

Unfortunately, Anderson was unable to complete the fourth Test in Ranchi due to experiencing tightness in his quad muscle. He was just two wickets away from joining an elite group of players, only the third ever and the first seam bowler, to reach the 700 wicket mark. Weather forecasts, much like the prices in local shops, are often open for negotiation. If the weather cooperates, Anderson will have an incredibly picturesque backdrop for reaching this notable milestone. Additionally, Jonny Bairstow will also have his 100th Test match as a part of this momentous occasion.

However, all 14 of the remaining members of the team on tour should be eager to participate, not just for the sake of being able to tell their future grandchildren that they played a Test match in the birthplace of the Dalai Lama. Though the series may already be lost and their second-to-last spot on the World Test Championship table seems impossible to recover, ending with a score of 4-1 would only amplify the sense of regret due to the missed opportunities England has experienced in this series.

Several of the current Indian team members are familiar with this experience; a loss of 4-1 in England in 2018 which did not fully reflect their performance on the cricket field. However, at the time, there was a lingering feeling of “what if,” which was partially fed by Virat Kohli’s ability to set aside his ego (in his own words), adapt to the conditions, conquer the challenge of facing Anderson, and score a total of 593 runs.

England batsman Jonny Bairstow is out lbw to Ravi Ashwin on the first day of the fourth Test against IndiaView image in fullscreen

To be honest, while they put in a lot of effort and their new spinners exceeded expectations in India, none of England’s batsmen can honestly say the same. While Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett have been reliable at the start of the order, where there are chances for scoring against the seamers, the rest of the middle order has struggled despite relatively flat pitches. As a result, the opening batters are the only ones to have scored over 300 runs for the team.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest letdowns in this aspect is Ollie Pope’s score of 285 runs, even though he began the tour with an impressive 196 in Hyderabad. Joe Root, on the other hand, recently scored an unbeaten 122, showing signs of returning to his previous form. While Pope’s performance may have been a risky move, it was praised by India’s head coach Rahul Dravid, who called it one of the best displays of sweeping and reverse sweeping he’s ever seen. Root even mentioned it as a new standard for visiting players in India.

With the exception of the mentioned innings, Pope’s tour has mostly consisted of nervous beginnings when coming to the crease. This pattern was highlighted in Ranchi last week when he was caught lbw by a fantastic delivery from Ravichandran Ashwin, resulting in his first two consecutive outs in Test cricket. As Pope usually enters at the third position, this poses a concern.

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Brendon McCullum, the head coach of England, commented on the frenzied playing style of Kevin Pietersen and Ricky Ponting. When asked about this trait during a break in the game, McCullum mentioned that the current player is making an effort to maintain a sense of calmness while on the field. He also added that there is a crucial moment in the game where the player must quickly analyze the condition of the pitch and get into the flow of the match.

His strategy is to enter the game without having already given his best performance, remaining composed and self-assured. He understands the importance of this mindset, as it is the goal of all players.

McCullum noted that Pope is not one to allow this situation to consume him. He has served as a dedicated sounding board for Stokes as vice-captain and has maintained a strong and agile presence as short-leg. Maybe Dharamsala can serve as an ideal setting for Anderson and also aid Pope in finding a sense of tranquility as a batter.

Source: theguardian.com