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Ollie Pope's magnificent century against India gives England a glimmer of hope and a lead.
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Ollie Pope’s magnificent century against India gives England a glimmer of hope and a lead.

The communication from the England team may seem unrealistic at times, but it holds value within the team. They tackled the third day of the match with a fresh mindset, as if they had forgotten the struggles of the previous two days. Ollie Pope’s outstanding century helped revive England’s chances against India when it seemed like all was lost.

It was uncertain if this would result in anything other than a 1-0 advantage for the home team as England finished the day at 316 for six, with a lead of 126 runs on a pitch that had not yet deteriorated. However, it was commendable that nothing had been decided yet, and credit should be given to one of the players who struggled during the difficult tour of India three years ago due to the pandemic.

During two separate instances, Pope successfully defended against all of India’s attacks. This even included a remarkable display of reverse swing by Jasprit Bumrah after lunch, resulting in Ben Duckett losing his off-stump and Joe Root being declared lbw. Despite this, Pope remained unbeaten at the end of the day with 148 runs from 208 balls. He achieved his fifth Test century an hour prior with a quick run for three and a bright smile on his face.

On the second ball, there was a questionable moment between the wicketkeeper and slip fielder, and a fortunate opportunity was given on 110 when Axar Patel missed an easy catch at backward point. However, for the majority of the match, it was the standout performance of the Oval, rather than the previous underwhelming showing in India. Pope quickly reached 50 in 54 balls, but then slowed down to focus on the longer game. As England has repeatedly emphasized, they possess more adaptability than they are given recognition for.

Unlike India, the sweep was a rich source of runs, Duckett’s impish 47 having earlier set the tone. Support for Pope was naturally essential, Ben Foakes arriving at a perilous 163 for five and helping to add 102 runs through a calm head and those low-slung hands. Not that the latter could offer full protection, Foakes agonisingly bowled on 34 by a shooter from Patel; one of the few gremlins on the day.

Instead, it was the young Rehan Ahmed who helped Pope until the end. Together, they added 41 runs to the overall 144 runs in the session. This performance caught the attention of Rohit Sharma and his team. Earlier, India had quickly dismissed Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes, making some think the match would end in three days. This outcome was not part of their plan.

The resistance started in the morning, with England finally winning a session after six unsuccessful attempts. They efficiently dismissed India’s lower order, limiting their lead to 190 runs, and then quickly took 89 wickets for the loss of one before lunch. Root played a key role, finishing with four wickets for 79 runs in 29 overs and setting himself up for more success in the rest of the series.

With the help of Mark Wood and assistance from officials, Root successfully dismissed Ravindra Jadeja for 87 runs as a dipping delivery hit the all-rounder’s front pad. While there was some uncertainty due to a possible inside-edge, the on-field umpire’s decision was supported by TV umpire Marais Erasmus.

England’s Ben Duckett plays a shot against India in the first TestView image in fullscreen

Jadeja was dismissed, followed by Root getting Bumrah out, leading to a hat-trick opportunity that Siraj barely managed to defend. However, it was Ahmed who ultimately ended the game, taking over for the injured Leach after one over and successfully getting Patel out. Despite this, India remained significantly ahead with a score of 436 all out.

Next, there was a lively reply from two openers who were inclined towards making a confident declaration, Duckett and Zak Crawley, who started off with great energy. Unfortunately, Crawley did not last until the break as Ravichandran Ashwin cleverly changed his angle and caught an edge, resulting in a slip catch. However, Duckett was dominating Patel at the opposite end with his bat held at a very horizontal angle.

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Bumrah stepped in, delivering a 15-over ball that may have been damaged from repeatedly hitting the LCD advertising boards. This caused the ball to swing sharply and late, resulting in a game-changing two-wicket spell over five overs. It was a spectacular display of Indian talent that had 28,000 viewers captivated by Sharma’s leadership.

Duckett narrowly avoided being given out lbw, with the Hawk-Eye technology indicating three reds. However, on the next delivery, his stump was knocked back as he tried a risky drive. Root also had a close call, playing around a delivery. Pope, on the other hand, struggled to defend against yorkers and eagerly waited for the Indian spinners to return.

Not that such a thing exists, summed up by the bamboozlement of Bairstow, bowled for 10, as Jadeja ragged one square before he left the follow-up arm-ball. Stokes was also subdued, falling to Ashwin for the 12th time in Test cricket – more than any other batter – when, on six, he played inside an off-break.

Instead, it was the vice-captain of England who successfully controlled the duo, prolonging this Test match into its fourth day and demonstrating why some of the talk is not simply wishful thinking.

Source: theguardian.com