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4TH TEST, DAY 1 HIGHLIGHTS: ENGLAND BATTERS FALTER AGAIN, CAN INDIA MAKE THE MOST OF IT?

England’s woes seemed to be only getting deeper with time as batting failures came haunting them again on Day 1 of the 4th Test match. The Motera pitch wasn’t really a tough nut to crack this time around, but England’s first innings total of 205 has just gone on to show that there is something amiss that the English camp has failed to address. In the last 5 innings across three Test matches, England’s scores are 112 & 81 (3rd Test), 134 & 164 (2nd Test) and 178 (2nd Test 2nd innings).

India have had their share of agony as well, especially in the last Test on this very ground. However, their mindset reflected a sense of acceptance and a resolve to work on their weaknesses. Skipper Virat Kohli has maintained repeatedly ahead of the 4th Test that India are not worrying over the turf or the ball colour. Even though the scoreboard has quite a distance to travel, with India being 24-1 at Stumps, this mindset is likely to take the hosts a long way.

Just like the last two Tests, the lion’s share of success went to the spinners this time too. Axar Patel continued his brilliant form (4-68), duly backed by the experience of Ravichandran Ashwin (3-47). Washington Sundar chipped in too with the crucial wicket of Ben Stokes, the lone batter to score a 50 in the English innings.

Md Siraj, who replaced Jasprit Bumrah for this Test, impressed as well with his probing line and length. Unlike the previous match, Kohli rotated his bowlers and both pacers and spinners got chances enough to contribute. Siraj mostly kept it wicket-to-wicket and both his scalps – Jonny Bairstow (28) and Joe Root (5) – came as a reward of that. Trapping batsmen leg before seemed easy for him as he consistently pitched it a little outside the off, turning the ball away and occasionally surprising the batsmen with the ones that veer in.

“All I wanted to do was to maintain my line and length. You don’t need to try too hard or do anything extra special to get wickets in a Test match. If you keep probing the batters with the same line, you get wickets,” Siraj said after the day’s play.

India will have their task cut out for tomorrow. Even though Shubman Gill (0) returned early, Rohit Sharma (8) and Cheteshwar Pujara (15) have shown some resilience. Having said that, there is no denial that James Anderson has bothered them a bit, returning maiden in all of his 5 overs along with the wicket of Gill. Now, it remains to be seen if India can avoid repeating the mistakes that plagued their batters in the last match.