Home » Stokes’ ‘Botham moment’ cannot mask England failings as India turn screw

Stokes’ ‘Botham moment’ cannot mask England failings as India turn screw

by Marko Florentino
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Ben Stokes provided an Ian Botham moment of scene-stealing drama to announce his return as an all-rounder but even that could not disguise a day of methodical screw-turning by India.

Stokes’s wicket with his first ball for 251 days was an important moment for England’s future but this Test belongs to India, who are 473 for eight, 255 runs ahead on a pitch that is turning with the odd ball keeping low. England will do well to avoid an innings defeat.

A day after India ripped England out in 58 overs, the bowlers were forced to toil hard. India always conjured a partnership to bat their way back into ascendancy, a story of the series. Six times in nine innings India have batted for 98 overs or more (this one is 120 and counting). Contrast that with England. Six out of nine times they have been bowled out in fewer than 70 overs because India boast an attack with pace and mystery spin that seizes the moment.

England avoided a total meltdown because the two senior players – Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill – got out soon after their hundreds and the two young players, Sarfaraz Khan and Devdutt Padikkal, failed to convert half-centuries into three figures.

It could have been worse. India threatened a run riot with 129 for nought in the first session but Stokes’s team, to its credit, never gave in. A return of 212 for seven across the final two sessions was a decent comeback, too little to make much of a difference, but at least prevented a total debacle.

There were a string of fielding lapses, and two missed catches, which showed how tired minds are after seven weeks on the road. Tom Hartley was guilty of letting a couple through his legs in the deep (watch video below) but stuck to his task admirably with the ball for two for 126 and so did Shoaib Bashir, who has a big heart and shrugged off being hit for eight sixes, equalling the most in an innings by an England bowler, with four for 170 from 44 overs. Between them they bowled 60 overs. It could take weeks for them to go through that many in the County Championship.

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