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India takes full advantage of the generous nature of England on Republic Day, as observed by Simon Burnton.
Cricket Sport

India takes full advantage of the generous nature of England on Republic Day, as observed by Simon Burnton.

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This is the first instance since 1973 that India’s Republic Day has coincided with an England Test. Similar to 2024, the 1973 game began the day before, but unlike this year, it was paused to allow the people of Kanpur to celebrate without interruption. According to the Guardian, 51 years ago, Republic Day did not bring any happiness to England’s players. “Most of them stayed in their hotel and listened to the festivities happening on the streets outside.” This time around, the joy was also limited for England, with the key difference being that their players were not avoiding the celebrations, but rather causing them.

This is not a typical holiday where gifts are usually exchanged, but that is what occurred in Hyderabad. England was more generous, with poor deliveries resulting in boundaries, poor shots leading to wickets, missed opportunities to take more wickets, and several scoreless balls in between. The first over set the tone for the rest of the day. The last over showcased a shift in moods between the two sides, as Axar Patel hit Tom Hartley for a four, six, and four on the final three deliveries, increasing India’s lead to exactly 175.

As the players departed from the field, the crowd, much like England’s chances, had already disappeared (Republic Day allowed large groups of schoolchildren to attend the match, but it was unclear why, in a city of 11 million, they were needed on a public holiday). The difference in the teams’ batting efforts was evident: except for Ravichandran Ashwin, who was run out after a miscommunication with Ravindra Jadeja, there was only one Indian player – captain Rohit Sharma – who faced less than 60 deliveries. Similarly, on the first day, only one English player – captain Ben Stokes – faced more. England only had three partnerships that contributed over 40 runs, while India had two that contributed less (one being Ashwin and Jadeja, and the other between KL Rahul and Shubman Gill on the second day, which only managed 36 runs).

Rahul may have joined Yashasvi Jaiswal in falling in the first over of the day. He spoke about the advantages of his new position in the middle order, as he has typically been an opener in his Test career. He mentioned having more time in the dressing room to assess conditions, the bowlers’ strategies, and the behavior of the pitch. However, he only had four deliveries to do so on Friday morning and this may have caused his early scare. If he had been dismissed, it would have required Ben Foakes to catch the ball and for umpire Chris Gaffaney to notice the nick, which did not happen. Therefore, Rahul settled into his work and took 15 more deliveries before attempting a more aggressive shot. He then hit two consecutive fours off Tom Hartley and got his innings going.

Ravichandran Ashwin is run out after a mix-up with Ravindra JadejaView image in fullscreen

After Gill surprisingly chose a fielder and caused India’s score to be 159 for three, England saw a chance and quickly brought in Mark Wood to exploit what they believed was Shreyas Iyer’s weakness against short balls. However, it was Rahul who was up to bat and he managed to score 13 runs off the next over, including a skillfully executed back-foot punch for four, diminishing England’s hopefulness.

The Indian team’s batting performance can be divided into three distinct phases, each led by a different dominant player. While Jaiswal was batting, they scored at a rate of 5.16 runs per over. When Rahul took over, the scoring rate dropped to 4.02. After he was dismissed with a puzzling shot, scoring 86 runs, Ravindra Jadeja patiently guided the team towards victory at a slower pace of 2.95 runs per over.

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Jadeja had a total of 34 runs out of 38 when Rahul joined him and added 47 runs out of 117, which changed the pace of the game. Despite the challenges, Rahul seemed at ease and he and Patel played with composure. They were not in a rush until the last three balls, and are now eagerly anticipating their turn to bowl on Saturday. The final delivery was delayed as Patel had thrown the ball into a ditch, leaving England’s hopes down there.

Source: theguardian.com