Friday, May 24, 2024

India paceman Bumrah main difference in clash of cricket heavyweights

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England has revolutionized the way Test cricket is played, and that has given life to the usually boring five-day format.

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The visitors pulled off a stunning victory in the first of the five Tests last week and skipper Ben Stokes promised England would not take its foot off the pedal in an attempt to make it 2-0 at Visakhapatnam.

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India set the visitors a steep 399 for victory and Stokes’ team fell short by 106 runs as England folded for 292.

Stokes and Kiwi coach Brendon McCullum said no score would be too high and they exuded confidence since they felt they had the horses to overtake 399.

“Coming into this last innings we had full belief in ourselves that we could go and chase that down,’’ Stokes said at the post-match presentation. “The way in which we go about taking on challenges like that is what we’re about and the number of runs that we needed to get was just sort of another thing for us to try and try and chase down.”

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This is no idealistic boast as England has won eight of its past 10 matches while chasing in the fourth innings since the start of the Stokes/McCullum partnership.

Their only losses had previously come against New Zealand and Australia. Their highest chase was against India in 2022 in Birmingham when Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow clobbered centuries in chasing down 378 and that was quite a feat.

But no team has ever topped 276 in India for victory.

All said and done, India has not been at its best in this series with bat and ball.

Coach Rahul Dravid, one of India’s greatest batsmen, has admitted England’s all-out attacking approach known as ‘Bazball’ has impressed him.

“I think they’re playing very well. Whether you call it ‘Bazball’ or whatever you want to call it, it’s not,” he said. “I know it’s just a term, and I’m not sure how happy they are about it, but they are playing really good cricket. It’s not like wild slogging, they are actually showing some very good skills.

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“I have seen at times they know when to pull back and they know when to attack. They’re playing slightly differently, no doubt about it. They know how to find that balance and we know we’re up against a challenge that we’re looking forward to.’’

England has looked dangerous and Stokes has assembled a squad that could end India’s domination at home. India has fumbled with bat and ball in both the matches and only a couple of individual performances have helped India tie the series at 1-1.

Lack of consistency has put the team under the scanner and it’s in the lap of Dravid and his captain Rohit Sharma to shake up the squad.

The one glaring difference between the two well-matched teams has been India’s pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah. Possibly India’s greatest pace bowler since Kapil Dev, Bumrah has been phenomenal with a six-wicket burst in the first innings followed by three in the second in the second Test.

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An unconventional fast bowler with a short run-up that includes a few steps followed by a little faster run to generate some speed, he is unlike any fast bowler we have seen, but he has baffled the opposition for the past few years.

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His reverse swing has been deadly and he could on his own win India this series.

Those who guided India to victory included opener Yashasvi Jaiswal, who plundered 209 in India’s first innings with the evergreen James Anderson taking three for 47.

In the second knock, Shubman Gill made 104 and spinner Tom Hartley grabbed four for 77 while England folded for 292.

Once again it was opening batsman Zak Crawley who led the way with his second score in the 70s.

Stokes has good reason to be optimistic in this series as his inexperienced spinners Shoaib Bashir, Hartley and Rehan Ahmed have shown so much of maturity.

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England isn’t likely to tinker with its lineup unless Joe Root doesn’t recover from an injured hand.

Now there’s an unusually long nine-day break before they resume action in the third Test in Rajkot.

The Indian players are headed home while England returns to its training camp in Abu Dhabi to connect with their families for some relaxation and likely some practice.

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All eyes though will be on India. The main question is whether star batsman Virat Kohli will return to the lineup after sitting out the first two encounters with a “family problem.’’

Kohli apparently is out of the country and his return will boost the battling lineup that has misfired.

Also, there hasn’t been any update on KL Rahul, who sat out the second Test with an injury, but there will be some excitement as ace spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will be looking for his 500th Test wicket.

Check out our sports section for the latest news and analysis.

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