Ollie Pope masterclass gives England renewed hope

Ollie Pope’s unbeaten 148 on Day 3 keeps England’s hopes alive (Image: Debasis Sen)

Day Three of the first Test between England and India in Hyderabad turned out to be a keen tussle between the bat and ball as the visitors clawed their way back into the game. Ollie Pope (148 not out) was the cornerstone of England’s efforts as they ended up on 316 for 6, in front by 126 runs. Meanwhile, Jasprit Bumrah was the best bowler on show for the home team, taking a couple of scalps.

England had started the morning session well, cleaning up India’s lower order quickly. Joe Root, who got enough deliveries to turn at pace, was rewarded with four wickets. With a deficit of 190 to erase, Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett strung together a brisk stand of 45 for the opening wicket. The crux of that partnership was Crawley in particular looking to employ the reverse sweep.

After Crawley was removed by R Ashwin with a slider from round the wicket, Duckett and Pope put on another crucial partnership of 68. It was Duckett who took the aggressive route, cracking sweeps and reverse sweeps. At 113 for 1, India were searching for answers. At that stage of the game, with the old ball reversing, Bumrah bowled one of the best spells of the match, dismissing both Duckett and Root.

Bumrah even had a loud appeal for an LBW against Duckett turned down. Replays later suggested it was going to crash into the leg-stump. India, though, didn’t opt for the review. The ace fast bowler took that minor setback in his stride by castling Duckett with an inswinger from round the wicket. Bumrah then won an LBW decision against Root with another of those inswingers. The essence of that dismissal was the way he set the batter up with a string of outswingers before going for the killer punch.

Pope after his century (Image: Debasis Sen)

Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes followed their experienced teammate back to the pavilion, with Jadeja and Ashwin sharing the two scalps. At 163 for 5, with England in trouble, Ben Foakes joined Pope to share an alliance of 112. By then, Pope had started to pick the spinners off the pitch. Although the track had slowed down on the third day, Pope deserved a lot of credit for sticking to his method.

Pope continued England’s strategy of using sweeps and reverse sweeps, alongside the occasional flick shot. On the other hand, Foakes was more intent on defending off the front foot. Pope also reached his hundred with a whip off Jadeja in the 61st over. The Hyderabad crowd aptly gave him a standing ovation. Axar Patel, who fluffed a chance off Pope, ultimately broke the partnership by castling Foakes. Rehan Ahmed and Pope then steered the side to stumps, putting on a handy association of 41.

The Bazball approach did seem to rattle the famed Indian spin trio. Just to illustrate the point further, India perhaps bowled a bit too full against Pope. So, how many runs would England score tomorrow? Would all those rough patches make it tough for the Indian batters to chase down the target? How would the inexperienced England spin attack go about bowling in alien conditions? Things are nicely set up for a fascinating Day Four.


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