'Tourist-unfriendly' India dim England's 'Bazball' aura

India's five-wicket victory on a spiteful track in Ranchi is not really a cakewalk, thanks to England's never-say-die spin attack

Reuters
Published : 26 Feb 2024, 12:39 PM
Updated : 26 Feb 2024, 12:39 PM

India have remained Test cricket's most tourist-unfriendly destination for over a decade and even England's gung-ho 'Bazball' approach could not change that reality on Monday.

India's five-wicket victory on a spiteful track in Ranchi was not really a cakewalk, thanks to England's never-say-die spin attack.

But it fetched Rohit Sharma's team an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series, and consolidated their second place, behind New Zealand, in the World Test Championship standings.

This was India's 17th consecutive Test series win at home, where they have not lost a test series since an Alastair Cook-led England bested them in 2012.

For England, who won the opening Test in Hyderabad and have been competitive as well as entertaining in Visakhapatnam and Ranchi -- it was their first series defeat under captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon 'Baz' McCullum.

India will be particularly happy they clinched the series despite the absence of batting mainstay Virat Kohli (personal reason) and frontline seamer Mohammed Shami (injury).

Middle order batter KL Rahul missed Tests after hurting himself in the Hyderabad opener, while they rested pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah for the match in Ranchi to manage his workload.

It forced India to field four debutants in the first four matches and three of them -- wicketkeeper Dhruv Jurel, batter Sarfaraz Khan, and seamer Akash Deep -- impressed immediately.

Player-of-the-match Jurel struck 90 in the first innings to kept India alive in the contest and his unbroken 72-run stand with Shubman Gill on Monday helped India pull off a nervy chase.

"Obviously it's a big challenge to play test cricket. We all know that," Rohit said.

"Dhruv Jurel, playing his second game, showed solid composure and calmness. He has got the shots as well and played all round the wicket."

ENGLAND'S MELTDOWN

In a match where there were hardly any dull moments, England's second innings meltdown left India needing 192 runs to win.

The hosts raced to 84 for no loss before Shoaib Bashir's triple strikes turned the match on its head reducing India to 120-5.

On a pitch where the ball turned sharply and often kept low, Jurel and Gill proved immovable despite the mounting pressure.

They gritted their teeth through a 30-over stretch when they could not hit a single boundary in a defensive masterclass on a treacherous track.

Gill, an all-format batter known for his clean-hitting prowess, showed immaculate match awareness and did not hit a boundary in the first 119 balls he faced.

When victory was in sight, the elegant right-hander smacked Bashir for two sixes in the same over en route to his fifty.

Several former England captains believe England need to temper their 'Bazball' approach, but Stokes was happy with the commitment of his team mates.

"The scoreline says India win by five wickets but I don't think that gives enough credit to sum up the game as a whole," Stokes said.

"The series has shown a lot of talent, for us and India. I love test cricket and we've seen some young, inexperienced players perform and the future looks bright in this format."

The fifth and final Test, scheduled in Dharamsala, begins on March 7.