England in uphill battle despite Stokes half-century
England register a below-par 205 in first innings in final Test against India
New Delhi — England endured a top-order collapse before they registered a below-par 205 in their first innings in the fourth and final Test against India in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
A sixth consecutive sub-200 total looked on the cards for the tourists after they slumped to 30/3 in the morning session. Ben Stokes (55) and Dan Lawrence (46) propped them up but England might regret not making the most of the perfect batting conditions at the Narendra Modi Stadium.
India, who are 2-1 up in the four-Test series, were 24/1 at stumps and will be confident against a spin-heavy England attack with James Anderson as the lone front-line seamer, while Stokes battles an upset stomach.
Rohit Sharma was batting on eight and Cheteshwar Pujara was on 15 with the hosts 181 behind.
“We’re more than capable of scoring at least 300 on that pitch,” Stokes said afterwards. “It’s frustrating, but we can’t dwell on it too much. Overall, it’s a much better wicket than the last time we played here.”
Axar Patel was the wrecker-in-chief in that match, which India won in two days, and the left-arm spinner returned to haunt England again after Joe Root elected to bat.
Dom Sibley made two before he inside-edged a delivery onto his stumps and, in Patel’s next over, Zak Crawley stepped out to chip the ball to mid-off and depart for nine.
Quick Mohammed Siraj, replacing Jasprit Bumrah in the squad, struck the biggest blow when he trapped England skipper Root leg before wicket for five with an inswinger.
Jonny Bairstow looked determined to make amends having scored a pair of ducks in the third Test but Siraj trapped him lbw soon after the lunch break for 28. Stokes could not be denied his 24th Test fifty, though. The all-rounder hit Ravichandran Ashwin (3/47) and Washington Sundar for sixes and then reverse-swept Patel (4/68) to bring up his half-century.
Off-spinner Sundar dismissed Stokes lbw with a sliding delivery to cut short his stay.
The recalled Lawrence missed his fifty after charging down the track and missing the ball from Patel to be stumped. Indian spinners claimed eight of the 10 English wickets on a pitch that looked quite different from the one used for the third Test in which 30 wickets fell in five sessions.
Anderson gave England a strong start with the ball by dismissing Shubman Gill lbw for a duck with his third delivery but Rohit and Pujara looked assured.
“It was a batting wicket, and it was coming onto the bat nicely, so we planned to bowl patiently and keep bowling at the same spot,” Siraj said.
England also recalled off-spinner Dom Bess while dropping quicks Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer.
“Jofra Archer is not playing in this Test match due to his ongoing right elbow issue,” a team spokesperson said.
India need a draw to secure their place in the June final of the World Test Championship against New Zealand.
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