Jurel and spinners bring India firmly back in contention

Jurel and spinners have successfully propelled India back into the competition. (Image: BCCI)

The Ranchi Test is poised on a knife edge. Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow were running away with the game for England, when Kuldeep Yadav intervened. The chinaman bowler was inexplicably underbowled (just 12 overs) in the first innings, especially during the 113-run partnership between Joe Root and Ben Foakes. In the second innings, he was given 15 overs at a stretch, on either side of tea. And Kuldeep broke the backbone of England batting with 4-22, bringing India firmly back into the contest.

At stumps on Day 3 of the third Test, the hosts were 40 for no loss, chasing 192 for victory. Both Rohit Sharma (24 not out) and Yashasvi Jaiswal (16 not out) looked untroubled during their 25-minute stay at the crease. India need a couple of good partnerships to win this game. England, on the other hand, will look forward to taking a few quick wickets early on Monday.

If India go on to win the game, Dhruv Jurel should walk away with the Player of the Match award, for without his 90 off 149 balls, the hosts barely had a chance. But we would come to his outstanding effort later, after digging a little dip into Kuldeep’s mesmerising spell of wrist-spin bowling.

Resuming on overnight 219-7, India took their first innings total to 307, thanks to a superb 76-run eighth wicket partnership between Jurel and Kuldeep (28, 131 balls). England were 46 runs ahead and the hosts needed quick wickets in the second innings. Rohit started off with spin from both ends, and Ravichandran Ashwin found a nice rhythm, operating with the new ball. The wickets of Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope and Root were his rewards in his first spell and the tourists were pegged back. For the first time in the series, Ashwin was in his element, but Crawley (60) and Bairstow (30) counter-attacked.

Crawley has been a revelation in this series. Tightening his game around off stump has served the England opener very well. Also, he has been playing straight. He raced to a 71-ball half-century, as England’s lead neared 150. At the other end, Bairstow, too, was timing the ball well, and on a tricky pitch, India looked to be in danger of chasing an improbable target in the fourth innings.


The way Crawley was playing, a special delivery was needed to dismiss him. Kuldeep, brought into the attack after 24 overs, duly produced one. He asked Rohit to leave the cover open and then castled the opener with a delivery that turned prodigiously. Ben Stokes survived a close LBW shout on umpire’s call, but Kuldeep accounted for him with the one that turned and kept low.

Ravindra Jadeja then dismissed Bairstow in the very first ball after tea and Kuldeep sent Tom Hartley and Ollie Robinson packing inside three deliveries. From 110-3 at one stage, England slumped to 133-8. Ashwin returned for his second spell to see the back of Foakes and James Anderson, and England were all out for 145 in their second innings. The veteran off-spinner returned with 5-51 from 15.5 overs, his 35th five-for in Test cricket.


So good were Kuldeep and Ashwin that Akash Deep, who made a serious impression in the first innings with three wickets, wasn’t required to bowl. The morning, meanwhile, belonged to Jurel. The 23-year-old gave a masterclass in grit, application, temperament and game awareness. He batted normally when Kuldeep was at the other end and upped the ante considerably after the latter was dismissed. Jurel’s maiden Test fifty came off 96 balls and it was an emotional moment for the 23-year-old who went through real hardship to pursue his dream. Soon, the youngster spanked Shoaib Bashir to the straight boundary for a six followed by a four through long-off.

Jurel was running out of partners but he didn’t lose his composure. A six and a four off Tom Hartley saw him move into the 90s. Finally, it took a beauty from the left-arm spinner to breach his defence, when the youngster was just 10 short of his hundred. Everyone at the JSCA International Stadium stood up to applaud a special innings. In the context of the game, Jurel’s 90 was worth its weight in gold.

For England, Bashir was the star performer, claiming his maiden five-for (5/119) in his second Test. Once a County-reject, this could well be his coming of age moment. Hartley returned with 3-68. The visitors, though, would be disappointed with their second innings batting performance, on a surface that had quietened a bit on the third day.


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