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Jurel and Gill led India to their fourth Test win against England, securing the series victory.
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Jurel and Gill led India to their fourth Test win against England, securing the series victory.

In the past, England captains would appear troubled after a series loss. However, after experiencing his first defeat as captain and watching India successfully chase down 192 runs on the fourth day in Ranchi, Ben Stokes remained calm and collected.

This was not in preparation for the now dead-rubber fifth Test in ­Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama, but more a reflection of his outlook on life these days; how he has learned to treat those two impostors, triumph and disaster, just the same. Stokes wants to win, no question, but to be chewed up by defeat would be to lose perspective.

The team’s performance was impressive. England’s fielding was excellent, with Jimmy Anderson making a great catch at backward point and Ollie Pope showing quick reflexes at short leg. The spinners also caused some trouble, with Shoaib Bashir taking two wickets in two balls and bringing his match total to eight and career total to 12 in Test matches, surpassing his record for Somerset.

While 3-1 down after two of India’s next gen stars in Dhruv Jurel and Shubman Gill got their side over the line – a gimlet-eyed unbroken stand of 72 that broke a tense two-hour period without a boundary – England have pushed the hosts harder than many previous visitors; harder, certainly, than their own nosedive to a 3-1 defeat in 2021.

Rohit Sharma, whose team has now emerged victorious in their last 15 Test series at home, expressed that he anticipated this outcome. However, his main thoughts after the match revolved around his pride in Gill and Jurel. Jurel’s style resembles that of chase-master Virat Kohli, with a technically sound approach that was first showcased in a game-changing 90 runs in India’s first innings. He continued to break free from constraints in his unbeaten 39 runs partnership with Gill, who played a more cautious role with 52 runs.

Despite the possibility of redemption in the Himalayan foothills next week, England will have some remorse over their performance in the fourth Test and the entire series. Bashir and Tom Hartley have exceeded expectations, with Hartley now leading the series in wickets with 19 after Sharma was caught out by Ben Foakes’ stumping, which was initially believed to be an edge. However, England missed out on two chances in this particular match.

On the crucial third day, there were two important moments. The first was when Jurel had a chance to catch the ball at midwicket while Ollie Robinson was batting at 59, but he dropped it. Robinson had a good start in his first Test match in seven months, scoring 58 runs and supporting Joe Root’s impressive unbeaten century. However, he then began to struggle, with his pace dropping to the mid-70s and concerns about his back soreness arising. In the fourth innings, Stokes chose not to use Robinson as a bowler, but he claimed it was a tactical decision. Anderson also had to leave the field due to a sore quad, but Stokes stated that Robinson was still fit to bowl.

After the mistake, Jurel’s runs were added, and there may have been additional runs wasted by Bashir and Anderson due to careless shots when they could have supported Root. This could have given England a lead of 100 runs in their second inning. However, they only managed to be 46 runs ahead and struggled on an unpredictable surface that alternated between being slow and challenging. They were eventually all out for 145 and lost their last seven wickets for just 35 runs.

Following their defeat in Rajkot, where a strong start of 207 for two turned into a disappointing 319 all out, and a similar collapse at Lord’s last summer when Australia were short a player, the issue of ruthlessness has been raised. It begs the question of whether a team known for their laid-back approach also tends to falter against tougher opponents. Despite an improvement in results in 2022, it was also the year of their most recent series victory (against Pakistan).

England’s Shoaib Bashir (third right) celebrates the wicket of India’s Rajat Patidar.

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When asked about the concept of ruthlessness, Stokes responded, “What does that mean? How does it manifest itself? Everyone enters the game with the intention of doing their best. When things don’t go our way, people claim we lack ruthlessness. But when we succeed, they say we have it. I don’t fully comprehend it. We simply do what we believe is the most effective way to win. Sometimes people make casual remarks about us not being ruthless.”

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It was a fair rebuttal and, in the case of the collapse in this Test, few teams, if any, would have fared better. Pope was skittish, Stokes found himself penned in on the back foot and Jonny Bairstow’s shot after tea was tame at such a critical moment. But Ravichandran Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav, nine wickets between them, were lethal in targeting the cracks on offer.

Stokes stated that the limitation they placed on themselves was not insurmountable. However, it proved to be extremely challenging to execute our desired actions.

Stokes should be acknowledged for getting the most out of two inexperienced players, Bashir and Hartley. The duo should be proud of their performance on Monday, with Bashir causing some worry after lunch when Jadeja hit a full toss to midwicket and Sarfaraz Khan was caught by Pope for a golden duck. Could Robinson, who was standing up to the wicket, have been a viable option? Stokes did not think so.

At the conclusion, India maintained their composure, with Gill impressively hitting two powerful sixes and Jurel fittingly scoring the final runs off Hartley. In the end, the superior team emerged victorious.

Source: theguardian.com