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regular-article-logo Monday, 17 June 2024

India vs England: Ollie Pope preaches sweep sermon to exorcise threat of spin demons 

Pope’s unbeaten 148 off 208 balls gave England a semblance of a chance to keep Bazball’s biggest test on track

Indranil Majumdar Hyderabad Published 28.01.24, 06:48 AM
England’s Ollie Pope attempts a scoop during the third day’s play in the first Test against India in Hyderabad on Saturday.

England’s Ollie Pope attempts a scoop during the third day’s play in the first Test against India in Hyderabad on Saturday. PTI picture

Ravichandran Ashwin loves to manoeuvre his wrist and the crease in a bid to manipulate the drift and the turn. When the conditions work in his favour, the off-spinner can be menacing.

Ben Stokes witnessed the magician revel at his art again on the third afternoon. The England captain turned to see his off stump plucked out as he lunged forward to defend, threw his head back in despair before trudging off.

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England's batting mainstays Joe Root and Stokes contributed only eight between them in their bid to wipe out the deficit of 190. But lesser mortals Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes meant business.

By close, the visitors had pushed their lead to 126 with Pope's unbeaten century wiping out the memories of a forgettable tour in 2021. Together the sixth wicket pair put on 112 off 183 balls.

Rohit Sharma had hurriedly brought Ashwin into the attack once Stokes walked in. Ashwin used the angles spitefully to pin down Stokes and bowled three consecutive maiden overs before producing that magical delivery.

An absolute ripper which dipped and turned past a resolute block. It was the 12th time Ashwin had dismissed Stokes.

It seemed like a killer blow after Jonny Bairstow was left dumbstruck by Ravindra Jadeja as he offered no shot to one which held its line.

England's prospects had looked bleak at the start of the day but Root's 4/79 saw India continue their innings for only 54 minutes.

Pope's unbeaten 148 off 208 balls gave England a semblance of a chance to keep Bazball's biggest test on track. Nevertheless, they showed the intent to score quickly even on a turning track in the second innings. Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett lived up to the challenge and Pope excelled.

Even as the spinners pitched the ball on a good length area hoping for some turn, he meticulously swept and reverse swept them, exhibiting the courage and the acumen. It made for a gripping contest as Pope used his feet and even dared to play the reverse scoop over the wicketkeeper's head.

Pope has taken England to a position from where the addition of another 50-odd runs would mean the result could go either way. Rohit could blame only himself for being too defensive with his field placings. It did cost India a few close chances.

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