Recent Match Report – India vs England 2nd Test 2023/24


India 396 (Jaiswal 209) and 28 for 0 (Jaiswal 15*, Rohit 13*) lead England 253 (Crawley 76, Bumrah 6-45) by 171 runs

Ben Stokes’ expression said it all. For the second time in as many first-innings counterattacks, all he could do was shrug his shoulders and marvel at the genius of the man who’d just had his measure, as Jasprit Bumrah cut short another spirited display from England’s captain, to cap a performance that transcended the conditions that he’d been granted.

In the midst of India’s surprise loss in Hyderabad, Bumrah’s six wickets across two innings had been a warning as to where the true threat in India’s attack would lie. So it proved at Visakhapatnam on what had been touted as a spinners’ paradise, as Bumrah piled that same haul into one sensational display, springing the trap on England’s batters with the insuperable figures of 6 for 45 in 15.5 overs.

All six of those came in the space of 71 deliveries across his final three micro-spells – a howling, hustling display of express-paced reverse swing in which the cream of England’s batting were simply bereft of answers. Joe Root’s audible groan as he snicked an outswinger to first slip, having aligned himself to Bumrah’s initial shape into his pads, confirmed the extent to which even England’s kingpin had been outplayed, but it was Bumrah’s subsequent extraction of England’s first-Test hero Ollie Pope – blasted from the crease by an unplayable inswinging yorker – which proved that, just occasionally, the danger is too acute even for this team to keep running towards it.

It was a one-man show to match that which Yashasvi Jaiswal had completed for India in the morning session, as he converted his overnight 179 to an epic 209 from 290 balls, in an innings in which no other batter passed 34. Though Bumrah was backed up in timeless flat-deck fashion by the wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav – whose sharp-turning wiles claimed three of the other four wickets to fall – the extent to which he up-ended this contest is perhaps best expressed by the serenity of England’s progress outside of his killer burst.

While Zak Crawley was in command of England’s tempo, in a long-levered knock of 76 from 78 balls that included a 16-run dispatching of Bumrah’s fourth and final new-ball over, England seemed on course to make India pay for another first innings in which they’d failed to bat their opponents out of contention. With James Anderson rolling back the years once more to finish a majestic performance with 3 for 47 in 25 overs, it seemed a total of 396 was very much game on. In hindsight, of course, the sight of one masterful swing bowler transcending the conditions should have been taken as proof that another would surely follow suit.

Nevertheless, England gave it a good go for as long as they realistically could. On a surface offering increasingly steepling bounce, England were obliged to tweak their game-plans, with the reverse-sweep that was such a feature at Hyderabad now fraught with danger and rarely unfurled. And in Crawley’s case, that meant using his 6’5″ reach to smother any danger at source, with full-faced drives to the straighter deliveries and pounding slog-sweeps when the bowlers strayed outside off.

This approach included another proactive tilt at the new ball, with England marching along to 59 in ten overs before Ben Duckett poked Kuldeep to silly point to depart for 21 for 17. Pope survived on his wits for the initial 10 runs of his innings, stretching forward with near-desperation in a display that had far more in common with his 1 from 11 at Hyderabad rather than his subsequent 196, but Crawley was a class apart, much as he had been in a similarly one-man display in Ahmedabad on the 2021 tour.

By the time he had reached 72, Crawley had scored a half-century in boundaries alone – the last of which, a half-tracker punched past cover, caused Ashwin to be pulled from the attack nursing the uncharacteristically tatty figures of 8-0-40-0. It meant England had cruised past 100 at a rate in excess of five an over, and when Axar Patel belatedly entered the attack after drinks to be shovelled second-ball through midwicket for four, it was clear Crawley was not about to slow down.

Unfortunately for him, and for England, Axar’s next ball was pushed a fraction wider outside off, and Crawley’s ambitious hack took a leading edge to be brilliantly caught by Shreyas Iyer, running back from point. At 114 for 2, the time was nigh to recall Bumrah to greet the incoming Root – especially given that a solitary over from Mukesh before the drinks break had confirmed that the ball was indeed tailing. What followed was nothing short of a masterclass.

Even amid the carnage, however, England’s spirit wasn’t completely broken. Jonny Bairstow brawled with intent to reach 24 not out at tea, albeit the bulk of his innings had been compiled while Bumrah was taking a breather – of his first 28 deliveries, their only meeting had been his very first ball, and that had been another inswinging yorker that almost extracted a review for lbw. Straight after the break, Bumrah was back once more, and his fourth ball of the session was scuffed to Gill at first slip.

Ben Foakes came and went without much resistance as Kuldeep bowled him round his outside edge for 6, while Rehan Ahmed’s attempt at a counterattack ended with a toe-ended slap to midwicket. But Stokes, typically watchful at first and inching through the gears as the wickets slipped away around him, found an ally in Tom Hartley to launch a late counterattack of 47 in 40 balls for the eighth wicket – with Mukesh’s ugly figures of 0 for 44 in seven overs proving that an ability to bowl reverse-swing was not remotely the same as harnessing it.

Each man landed a slog-sweep for six in consecutive overs, with Stokes’ off Ashwin confirming that he’d go wicketless in an innings in India for just the sixth time in his Test career. But back came Bumrah with a job to finish, and two balls later, back went Stokes’ off stump as the ball snuck low past a half-formed block.

The Stokes wicket was Bumrah’s 150th in Tests, and by the time he had mopped up Hartley and Anderson, his average had plummeted to an extraordinary 20.28, a figure that no bowler with that many wickets has matched since the great SF Barnes, more than a century ago. If ever there was proof that we are witnessing a generational talent among fast bowlers, the names in his wake – Marshall, Garner, Ambrose et al – amply confirm it.

By the close, India’s first-innings lead of 143 had been stretched to 171 without further loss in five overs, with Jaiswal back where he had started the day, with his captain Rohit Sharma alongside him, feasting on perhaps the first demoralised passage of play that England have allowed to slip into their endlessly optimistic attitude.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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