Can England keep the series alive against Bumrah-less India?

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Big picture: Joe Root’s time to bounce back

England have not lost a Test series in the Bazball era. Of the seven completed series in this period, they won four and drew three. However, that could change over the next five days as India – after trouncing England by 434 runs in Rajkot – go into the fourth Test in Ranchi with a lead of 2-1.

At various points in the series, India’s batting line-up has looked shaky. But with Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill back among runs, and Sarfaraz Khan and Dhruv Jurel making impressive debuts, it no longer seems to be an issue.

Their bowling line-up in Ranchi, though, could be their weakest until now. They have rested Jasprit Bumrah, the most influential bowler with 17 wickets at 13.64 in the first three Tests. Perhaps to offset that, they have prepared a pitch about which Ben Stokes said: “I have never seen something like that before.” But more on that later.

As far as England are concerned, their middle order needs to fire. So Bumrah’s absence should bring some relief, especially for Joe Root; Bumrah has dismissed him nine times across 13 Tests, including three times in this series. As a result, Root has scored a mere 77 runs in six innings so far on this tour, and his average of 12.83 is the second-worst for him in a Test series.

Another positive for England is that Stokes seems ready to resume bowling. Given the England captain’s ability to provide breakthroughs, the prospect must be mouthwatering, but the visitors will be wary of plucking the fruit before it is ripe.

Form guide

India WWLWL (last five Tests, most recent first)
England LLWWD

In the spotlight: Yashasvi Jaiswal and Jonny Bairstow

Yashasvi Jaiswal has been head and shoulders above all other batters in this series. In six innings, Jaiswal has smashed 545 runs at an average of 109.00. Ben Duckett, with 288 at 48.00, is a distant second. And it is not just the runs but also how Jaiswal scored them. He has batted at a strike rate of 81.10, and his 22 sixes are already the most by a batter in a bilateral Test series. If England are to level the series, they need to find a way to stop him.

Jonny Bairstow has been at the opposite end of the spectrum. With Ben Foakes taking over the wicketkeeping duties, he was expected to bat without any worry. But so far in the series, he has managed only 102 runs at an average of 17.00. The team management is not worried, though. According to head coach Brendon McCullum, they want to “keep on giving him confidence and block out a lot of the external noise”. It is up to Bairstow now to repay their faith.

Team news: England bring in Robinson and Bashir

The only question for India is who replaces Bumrah. With three spinners already in the XI, they are likely to go for either Mukesh Kumar or uncapped Akash Deep. Mukesh should be the frontrunner even though he missed the optional practice session on Thursday, where Akash did a lot of batting and fielding.

India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 3 Shubman Gill, 4 Rajat Patidar, 5 Sarfaraz Khan, 6 Dhruv Jurel (wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Mukesh Kumar/Akash Deep

England have made two changes. Ollie Robinson replaces Mark Wood and will play his first Test in India, while offspinner Shoaib Bashir has been preferred over Rehan Ahmed for his high release point.

England: 1 Zak Crawley, 2 Ben Duckett, 3 Ollie Pope, 4 Joe Root, 5 Jonny Bairstow, 6 Ben Stokes (capt), 7 Ben Foakes (wk), 8 Tom Hartley, 9 Ollie Robinson, 10 James Anderson, 11 Shoaib Bashir

Pitch and conditions: Rain in the air

The Ranchi pitch looks far more spin-friendly than any of the previous ones in the series. Stokes described it as “very dark and crumbly”. Ollie Pope noted that one half – if you cut it vertically – had significantly more cracks than the other. More grass was shaved off on Thursday. On the weather front, there is a forecast for showers on the third and fifth days of the Test.

Stats and trivia: Anderson on the cusp of 700

  • James Anderson is only four away from 700 Test wickets. Only Muthiah Muralidaran (800) and Shane Warne (708) have taken more.
  • Stokes is three short of 200 Test wickets. When he reaches there, he will be only the third allrounder after Garry Sobers and Jacques Kallis to complete the double of 6000 runs and 200 wickets.
  • Bairstow is 94 away from 6000 Test runs, and Rohit Sharma 23 from 4000.
  • Ravindra Jadeja, who completed 3000 Test runs in the previous game, is closing in on 300 Test wickets as well. He needs 13 more to become the seventh Indian to get there.


“We have been having a lot of conversations with him [Rajat Patidar]. One thing he needs to understand is that this is how this game goes. He has been batting really well, he has scored a lot of runs to get into the team, and he doesn’t become a bad player after two games. He has had a few tough games, awkward dismissals where the ball has stopped on him, which can happen – this is how this game goes. But I have absolutely no doubt that he is a good player and on his day he will come up with a very impactful innings.”
India batting coach Vikram Rathour backs Patidar

“There is going to be assistance for the spinners, but also the seam [bowlers] because of the dryness and cracks in the wicket. The way Jimmy [Anderson] and Robbo [Robinson] operate, zoning in on an area consistently, Robbo’s release point, I think we’re giving ourselves a good chance if it is spinning; we also have the chance to take wickets with the quick bowlers if there is some variable bounce.”
England captain Ben Stokes on the pitch

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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