*Most recent entry will appear at the top, please refresh your page for the latest updates. All times are local
5.53pm: Stuart Broad is not batting any more
Down on one knee, a languid sweep-flog down the throat of deep square leg, and in his third Test innings, Axar Patel has his second Test five-for! Easy come, easy go. At least he hauled England into triple figures. And, given the balance of England’s attack, at least the sun is likely to be setting when their turn comes with the ball. The witching hour approacheth… but they may need necromancy from Anderson, Archer and Broad to revive this corpse of a contest…
5.53pm: Stuart Broad is batting.. this is not a drill
5.24pm: Use your feet, people!
England’s innings is in freefall, and Nagraj Gollapudi is fairly sure he’s spotted the reason why:
“Will the ball spin or not? That is the key question any batsman asks when batting on a dry turner like in Ahmedabad, Nagraj writes. That doubt clearly has plagued all England batsmen including Joe Root, who had dominated Indian spinners in the first Test of this series with a masterful double century. Root showed not just self-confidence but the art of reading spin. Of course, that was a flat pitch. But the basics of playing spin do not change much regardless of the surface, as good batsmen will tell you.
One of the basics is using your feet. By stepping out of the crease, using the feet, the batsman can not just smother the spin, but also play the ball before it pitches on difficult pitches which can create that doubt. Jonny Bairstow, Ollie Pope and Root will look at their dismissals today and tell themselves why, why did I not jump out of the crease and defend.
By the time Jofra Archer was bowled, England’s batsmen had stepped out a mere 5 times while playing off the back foot 49 times in a total of 137 deliveries as per ESPNcricinfo’s bbb logs. Those numbers clearly indicate England’s batsmen were left in doubt big time on how to play.”
5.18pm: Axar to Archer – bullseye!
Well, it was resistance of sorts while it lasted. Archer actually unfurled the lesser-spotted sweep on a couple of occasions, nailing one through midwicket off Ashwin to get off the mark, and he even cut another four through backward point off Axar. But, as with so many of his colleagues, the threat of big spin made him extra vulnerable to the one that didn’t do a lot. A floppy drive off a full length, feet going nowhere, and back goes his off stump as Axar wriggles a length ball through his defences.
5pm: Ping! Next batsmen please …
Ollie Pope joins the procession, and it’s another beauty from Ashwin. Flighted, dipping, tricksy off the pitch, bursting past a lunging forward push and pegging back the off stump. Foakes and Stokes have a job and a half to do now, for India’s spinners are weaving a web.
And moments later, it’s all on Foakes! Stokes plays back to Axar, and is struck in line with off stump. Up goes the finger, it’s clipping the top of middle. He’s missed a fairly regulation back-foot block there.
As Sampath, our newest recruit to the stats-cave, noted at the break: “Three wickets by Indian spinners in the first session today. The previous 15 D/N Tests saw a total of three wickets going to the spinners in the first session on day 1.” It’s fair to say there’s a new day-night record in the offing here…
And Rajesh, our uber-statsgruppenmeister, has been playing around with control percentages, just to add to the sense of swirling doom that is enveloping England’s campaign:
Control percentages in the first 27 overs in the first innings in each of the three Tests: 1st Test: 90.3 (Eng 67/2) 2nd Test: 84.5 (Ind 106/3) 3rd Test: 80.5 (Eng 81/4)
It’s getting harder and harder to keep a handle on these surfaces …
Lunch (or tea, or elevenses or whatever)
England 81 for 4 (Stokes 6*, Pope 1*) vs India
Well, that was riveting, fluctuating, and agenda-setting. Plenty evidence that the new ball will talk while the lacquer is in situ, but also oodles of evidence that India’s three-pronged spin attack will dominate all other iterations of the pink ball. Zak Crawley produced a masterful half-century in the circumstances, but even he was becalmed when Ashwin joined Patel in a twin-spin assault. Ishant Sharma struck early in his 100th Test, and Root’s lbw to Ashwin completes a difficult first session for the visitors.
4.25pm: Crawley nailed by one that skids straight on
So, about that selection of a solitary spinner then? At least in England’s defence they’ve gone for the left-armer, for Axar Patel has been India’s biggest menace this morning, and his second scalp of the session is an innings-wrecking blow. Zak Crawley’s tremendous innings is ended as he plays forward to two consecutive deliveries – the first rips past his edge, the second pitches on an identical length but skips straight on. Ben Stokes winces at the non-striker’s end as he tells his team-mate not to bother with the review. That smacked the knee-roll and was going nowhere but into the stumps. It’s going to be a challenge to scrape past 200 now … anyway, about that new ball under lights?
4.10pm: Fatal misjudgement from Root
Ashwin’s trickery extracts the key quarry! The longer Joe Root endured, the more ominous his innings was looking, especially with Crawley showing no signs of easing up his tempo. But on 17, he plays back to a dipping delivery from round the wicket, and is pinned on the crease as Ashwin finds some extra bite from an off-stump line. The finger goes up straightaway, and though Root reviews, it’s more in hope than expectation. Sure enough, it’s umpire’s call, flicking the top of leg stump, and that’s a massive, massive blow to England’s hopes. Had these two endured to lunch, they could have claimed the session spoils. Instead, Ben Stokes is out to face his nemesis …
4pm: Fifty for Crawley, from 68 balls
Remarkable stuff from Crawley, who is leaving Joe Root for dead as he keeps the runs pounding, in spite of an increasingly threatening spell of left-arm spin from Axar Patel. But the manner in which he reaches his fifty is typical of the innings so far. A sumptuous open-faced drive through the covers is followed by a wickedly biting ball that moves like a chevron from middle-and-leg past the groping outside edge. But then, one ball later, Axar loses his length and gets clobbered through extra cover for his sins.
3.43pm: Crawley in no mood for creeping
This innings from Crawley is just beginning to evolve from fluent cameo into something really rather significant, as he brings up England’s fifty with yet another effortless, under-played flick off his legs as Ishant strays a touch too full. After the stodgy but valiant fare on offer from Sibley and Burns in the first two Tests, England seem now to have an opening batsman with the game to make the running in tricky conditions, much as Rohit Sharma did on the first day at Chennai.
And as the data below from our ball-by-ball analysis shows, that full length is travelling today, to all parts of that 225-degree arc in front of square.
3.08pm: Jonny be gone … for a duck
It’s a game of two halves right now, one replete with creamy, dreamy drives and clips from Zak Crawley. whose defensive prod clean through mid-on to get off the mark was a thing of wonder, and whose timing off the seamers has been auspicious from the outset. But, India have three spinners in their line-up too, and Axar Patel needs just a solitary delivery to make his mark on the game!
Jonny Bairstow’s reputation against spin was enhanced by some telling dlsplays in Sri Lanka, but he got in a right tangle as Axar came round the wicket, nailing the perfect in-between length on middle and off, and thumping his shin past the inside edge as Bairstow poked uncertainly forward. He goes for the review, out of bewilderment and mild embarassment more than anything, but India’s celebrations are uninterrupted. That is smashing the timbers, and England’s No.2 and 3 are gone without opening their account. Lively times!
2.50pm: Stokes, Foakes … Woakes? Nope …
Fans of rhyming tercets, look away now. Even in an age of random-team generation, England still can’t get their cause celebres inked onto the same scorecards.
2.40pm: First impressions are everything, right?
… in which case, don’t go making too many plans for cricket-watching on Sunday! Two overs down, and no runs on the board, and already Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah have extracted some startling movement with their shiny pink orb. Ishant’s first delivery simply launched itself at Rishabh Pant’s gloves, from a good-to-full length, while his fifth of the same over scuttled through to the keeper as if it had been stunned with a mallet in mid-air. A couple of deliveries wobbled off the seam too, though nothing like as extravagantly as Bumrah’s heat-seeking inswinger at the end of his first over. Dom Sibley dabbed it away with insouciance, but battle has been joined.
… too right it has! A leg-bye (and no-ball) to rotate the strike for the first time in this match, and Ishant’s opening delivery to Sibley is perfection. Hitting the seam, straightening off the angle into the right hander, hitting the splice, flying comfortably to Kohli at second slip. He’s gone without scoring, and into the fray comes Jonny Bairstow, fresh from his break back in the UK. Hope his visualisation went well during quarantine …
2.30pm: England win the toss, changes galore
Good afternoon all, and welcome to a whole new ball-game. In Chennai last week, England endured a familiar fate in Asian conditions, as R Ashwin spun a web around their techniques to deliver India a series-levelling 317-run win. But we’ve crossed the country from East to West now, and fast-forwarded the hours of play by five hours too, to bring the brand-new floodlights of Ahmedabad’s 120,000-seater stadium into play. Oh, and there’s a pink SG ball in the mix too, which England’s bowlers are “licking their lips” to get hold of, according to Ben Stokes. I imagine Ishant Sharma, in his 100th Test, and the fit-again Jasprit Bumrah might be feeling similar sentiments. Whatever happens over the next five days, I daresay it won’t be standard Test fare.
And as if to prove the point, we have wholesale changes on both teams, as England win a very useful toss, and get first use of the pitch while the afternoon sun is at its brightest. England, as expected, have made four changes – James Anderson and Jofra Archer return to lead the attack, although Stuart Broad retains his place, which is intriguing. Olly Stone and the home-again Moeen Ali make way, as do Dan Lawrence and Rory Burns with the bat. Jonny Bairstow and Zak Crawley are in. Crawley’s top score on tour so far is 13… a big ask to open up today.
India have two changes, Bumrah is joined by the spin-bowling allrounder Washington Sundar, in place of Kuldeep Yadav and Mohammad Siraj.
“It looks pretty dry, hot and humid,” says Virat Kohli, who is full of praise for the new stadium – which may only be half-full but 60,000 fans is still a larger capacity than pretty much every venue outside of the MCG.