Root, Bairstow deny India to inch closer to win

Published on Jul 04, 2022 11:30 PM IST
  • Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow push England towards a sensational series-levelling win chasing a fourth innings target of 378 after Indian batters flop on Day 4 of the Edgbaston Test.
England's Jonny Bairstow, right, walks off the field with batting partner Joe Root(AP)
England's Jonny Bairstow, right, walks off the field with batting partner Joe Root(AP)
By, Kolkata

Mohammed Siraj stared long and hard at Hanuma Vihari. He had every right to be furious but Siraj didn’t utter a word. Putting down a shoulder-high catch of Jonny Bairstow is incriminating under any circumstance, but to drop England’s only centurion of the game when they are 153/3—chasing 378—on a shirtfront of an Edgbaston pitch is unpardonable. It wasn't, on second viewing, as difficult a catch as it may have initially appeared. It was quick no doubt. But Vihari hadn’t cupped his hands properly, allowing the ball to burst through.

The game isn’t over yet but we live in incredibly predictable times when Bairstow has been common to some outlandish England wins. He is batting on 73 off 89 balls, riding on an assault so indiscriminate and savage that India are visibly running out of options to stop him. With him is the inimitable Joe Root, unbeaten on 76 off 110 balls. England still need 118 to win, and they look good to get it unless India come up with something special on Tuesday morning.

India’s moments arrived in a cluster before and after tea. A change in ball prompted Jasprit Bumrah to come back for a new spell and he straightaway hit the top of Zak Crawley’s off-stump. Shuffling across, Crawley offered no shot to Bumrah’s outside the off-stump ball but it nipped back to disturb the top of off-stump. And then, first ball after tea, Bumrah got Ollie Pope to poke at a length ball that straightened after pitching. Mayhem set in when Alex Lees was slow off his blocks to new man Root’s call for a single, finding himself well short of the crease when Ravindra Jadeja broke the stumps at his end.

Till Crawley’s dismissal, England were scoring at five runs per over, Lees fronting the attack by carting India’s bowlers to all parts of the ground and raising his fifty in only 44 balls. Those three wickets merely paused the riposte as Root and Bairstow tried to find their feet against a fast-bowling attack that was bowling a quarter of a length shorter because the pitch wasn’t doing anything. From 114/3 in 25 overs, England scored 145 runs in the next 32 overs, the first 10 overs yielding just 24 runs. That was the most productive period of bowling for India but England staved them off to mount a formidable comeback.

India will regret not playing out time. With the surface wearing down adequately, taking lateral movement out of the equation, playing through the line was becoming progressively easier. All India needed to do was bat out at least two sessions, slow down the game adequately and score an insurmountable total. Instead, England got to bat 23 overs before tea. And the slide started with, surprisingly, Cheteshwar Pujara’s impatience. Caressing a backfoot punch through covers off James Anderson, flicking him through midwicket, Pujara started the day on an unusually high tempo. But he probably took it too far first over of Stuart Broad’s spell in the morning—slashing a short, wide delivery to Lees at backward point.

Shreyas Iyer never looked comfortable facing a planned barrage of short balls till he was finally forced into an unconvincing pull off a Matthew Potts delivery aimed at his body. Obdurate and patient for the better part of the first hour, Rishabh Pant felt left-arm spinner Jack Leach was the best bet to free himself. Losing his balance the first time he swept Leach from outside off-stump, Pant tried a reverse sweep the next over but edged to Root at slip. Jadeja tried to build a few partnerships with the lower order before dragging Stokes on to the stumps on 23. From 153/3, India lost the next seven wickets for only 92 runs. Swift and alarming, the slump arguably enhanced England’s chances even before their openers set off chasing. But for about an hour of Bumrah coming into his elements and England getting entangled into chaos, India’s predicament was never really in doubt.


    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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