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The secret weapon for England is their use of wood, but India reigns supreme on a field that heavily favors batting.
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The secret weapon for England is their use of wood, but India reigns supreme on a field that heavily favors batting.


During the early stages of the game, when the weather in Rajkot was pleasant, and Sarfaraz Khan was a young player with the leading first-class average among current players, England had India in a difficult situation.

The past forty-five minutes were enchanting as the audience, with pale expressions, clad in football jerseys and sun hats, purchased treats from the vendors and observed in fascination as Rohit Sharma won the coin toss for the second consecutive match and selected to bat. However, India’s score quickly dropped to 33 for three.

England’s Mark Wood, who had not taken a wicket with the new ball since 2015, was entrusted with the shiny red cherry. This was not exactly a coveted opportunity on a pitch known for being favorable for batters.

The expected “paata” had a hint of sharpness at the start, and Wood was charging in like a large puppy with soft pink paws, playing with empty cardboard boxes while throwing balls but showing his determination in his deliveries. The youthful Indian players in the series were confused by his speed and accuracy.

In the second over bowled by Wood, Jaiswal attempted a shot with his back foot firmly planted, resulting in the ball being caught by Root at slip. Shortly after, Gill also fell victim. Previously deceived by an inducker, he then made contact with a 90mph delivery with little movement and Foakes caught it behind the stumps. The two high-scoring players from the previous Test were sent back to their dressing room.

Ben Stokes called for Tom Hartley to substitute Jimmy Anderson after only 40 minutes, and his decision paid off as Hartley got a wicket right away. Rajat Patidar, who has only played two Tests, made a slight hit at a ball that got caught in the pitch and popped up to Ben Duckett at short cover.

Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja, the only ones showing frustration, were the only ones preventing England from taking down the two new players in the middle order. Stokes, who had received his 100th cap in the dressing room, eagerly anticipated his turn.

India’s Sarfaraz Khan plays a shot on the first day of the third Test match against England.View image in fullscreen

Wood had a surprise move during his initial turn, forcefully hitting the ball onto the field. The unexpected bounce caught Sharma off guard, as he tried to jump out of the way. The ball hit the protective grille of his helmet, resembling a fried egg being angrily placed on a plate.

India was dealt a heavy blow when Sharma, at 27 years old, hit a couple of powerful boundaries off Hartley but then made a less-than-graceful swing, causing the ball to edge low into the slips where Root was positioned. However, Root was just a fraction too slow and the ball slipped through his fingertips and onto the ground. In the following over, an lbw decision against Sharma was reversed, giving the impression that he was having a tough time. This proved to be true as he and Jadeja managed to withstand England’s aggressive early attacks.

During the mid-afternoon break, the partnership had grown to 100 runs. By the end of the evening session, it had reached 200 runs, with Sharma scoring another outstanding hundred. Despite the initial advantage shifting away from England, Wood continued to impress with two more impressive plays. The first was when Sharma fell for the bouncer trap, unable to resist and miscuing a short ball to mid-wicket. Stokes was eagerly anticipating this, breaking the fourth-wicket stand at a score of 204.

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Wood’s last move resulted in crushing a young man’s hopes and aspirations. Sarfaraz, who had an impressive batting average of almost 70 in the Ranji Trophy, had been eagerly waiting for an opportunity to break into the top six of the Indian team. However, he followed Jadeja’s instruction for a single, but Jadeja, who was on 99 runs, changed his mind. Wood quickly fielded the ball at mid-on and successfully hit the stumps, ending Sarfaraz’s innings.

Sarfaraz walked off, feeling upset. Sharma, who was waiting in the dressing room to congratulate Jadeja on his century, angrily took off his orange baseball cap and threw it to the ground in frustration, like a character in a black-and-white movie. Jadeja appeared disappointed, but managed to score a single run. However, his celebration of reaching 100 runs was subdued and lacked its usual vigor.

Sarfaraz, who ran to his parents after receiving his India cap, seemed to be a promising player. He shared similar qualities to Sharma, being light on his feet, well-balanced, and extremely confident. He confidently hit Hartley for a six and had the courage to approach Anderson and cut him late after Foakes moved up to the stumps. It was a confident debut that took the momentum away from England, especially after they had finally dismissed Sharma and had a strong first hour.

Source: theguardian.com