By Ryan Smart
England’s 10-wicket defeat to India in the third Test at Ahmedabad has left them with plenty of questions to resolve ahead of the fourth and final Test of the series.
Joe Root’s men were bowled out for 112 before the conclusion of the second session on day one and struggled to exert pressure with the ball for much of the remainder of the day.
They were excellent on the second morning, taking seven wickets as India collapsed from 114 for three to 145 all out. Root, so often a game-changing asset on turning wickets, took 5-8.
Trailing by 33, England’s first task was to restore parity in their second innings. But when both Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow fell for ducks in the first over, even that was proving to be a challenge.
When they were eventually bowled out for 81, they had a lead of just 49.
Openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill reached the target comfortably, thus ending the shortest completed Test match since 1935 and handing India a 2-1 series lead.
RadioTimes.com looks at where it all went wrong for England in the third Test against India.
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The quality of the pitch, or the batting?
The main question England will have to answer is whether their batting performance was primarily down to decision-making or the Ahmedabad pitch itself.
Bairstow’s second-innings dismissal saw him seemingly playing for spin, but the 32-year-old left a gap between bat and pad that the ball sneaked between. Crawley got himself into a similar position, playing down the wrong line as the ball clattered into his off stump.
And in the first innings, Ollie Pope got in a position that suggested he was playing for the turn into the right-hander, but also saw his stumps removed when the ball did the opposite.
There were moments of fine margins. Both Root’s dismissals were adjudged as umpire’s call. In India’s first innings, Rohit was perhaps fortunate to survive a stumping appeal off Jack Leach.
It is hard to conclude otherwise that in Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin, England were up against two world-class spinners. They both took full advantage of the conditions presented to them – Axar in particular was unplayable at times.
After the Test had concluded, India captain Virat Kohli suggested the quality of batting from both sides wasn’t “at all up to standard” – 21 out of the 30 wickets that fell were to straight balls. However, when the ball did not skid on, many deliveries were otherwise turning sharply. It also gathered pace off the wicket.
Could England have shown better application, particularly in the second innings? Or were the above factors the main reason behind their failure to post a competitive total?
One spinner not enough?
News of England’s decision to opt with only one spinner did not come as an altogether unexpected surprise, given the star performances that James Anderson and Stuart Broad have put together using the pink ball in the past.
In the last day-night Test played in India, the home seamers shared 19 wickets.
But once Root’s side had an opportunity to bowl under lights on day one, they found the pitch offered little to the seamers.
Over the course of the Test, only two wickets were taken by fast bowlers. India did not bowl either Ishant Sharma or Jasprit Bumrah at all in England’s second innings.
Jack Leach performed well in the first innings, taking four wickets and going below Graeme Swann’s Test bowling average in the process.
But it was Root’s display that underlined the impact that spin was having on the Test. His dismissal of Washington Sundar presented the evidence – the ball pitched on leg stump, before turning sharply and cannoning into off-stump. It was arguably the delivery of the match.
Zak Crawley’s innings provides some hope
One key point to note is that both Axar and Ashwin are on the taller end of the spectrum when it comes to international spinners.
Coupled with their high actions, that meant that they were able to generate extensive bounce off the surface throughout the Test.
At 6ft 5in, Zak Crawley was perhaps in a better position than most to deal with that challenge. His tall stature meant that he was able to get over the bounce and play comfortably off the back foot.
His first-innings 53 was confidently compiled on a morning where few England batsmen were able to get starts.
The Kent batsman drove well, used his feet to good effect and played a number of crisp cut shots. His half-century came off just 68 deliveries.
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