Can We Win This? – Day 4 at Rajkot

So then. We’re 163 ahead, with all ten wickets left, and three sessions of the match remain. Can we win from here? You bet ya. All it takes is a quick 50 from Root, a cameo from Stokes, and maybe even a belligerent knock from Duckett (who should be in his element in this situation), and Cook can safely declare with a lead of 300 at lunch.

If England can manage 137 runs (or there abouts) in the morning then we’ll be able to put India under significant pressure late on the fifth day. The hosts might even collapse, Australia in Hobart style, and hand the game to us on a golden platter. Easy huh?

Unfortunately, test cricket doesn’t usually work this way. It’s just as likely that Hameed and Cook will bat for slightly too long, or we’ll lose a couple of wickets, and momentum will be lost. It was interesting that Sir Ian Botham, usually the biggest pie-eyed and one-eyed optimist in the commentary box, expected England to play it safe, take a winning draw, and move on to Visak unscathed. He even endorsed such an approach.

However, although I can see the logic in playing somewhat conservatively, and refusing to give India a sniff, one thing is playing on my mind: in reality, how many times will England get into a winning position during this series? Perhaps it’s best to attack, and try to register a victory, while the going’s good. It might not happen again if India wise up and prepare raging bunsens in the subsequent games.

Interestingly, the bookies obviously think England will play it safe (or at least be unable to force a result tomorrow). I’ve seen them as long as 15-1 to win on day five, with the draw an ominous looking 1/43. Even leading UK tipsters like bettingtips4you, who are usually worth a look, doubt Cook will suddenly metamorphose into Michael Clarke and set up an enticing chase. Of course, it’s often better to give the opposition a sniff rather than batting them out of the game completely if you to want force a result. But does Alastair have the cojones?

Even if England do settle for a draw tomorrow, I think we’ll emerge from the first test with a great deal of credit. Many of us feared the worst after Dhaka – especially as our record in the first test of overseas series isn’t always great – but we’ve handled ourselves really well. The batsmen cashed in when conditions favoured them, and although India managed to scrape up to 488 in their first innings, our bowlers didn’t disgrace themselves by any means. I thought we stuck to our task with tremendous discipline and made India’s excellent top 5 work really hard for their runs.

Adil Rashid, in particular, bowled really well. I’m pleased to report that he was a lot more accurate than we’ve seen in the past. The long-hops were few and far between, he ripped the ball past the outside edge a few times, and his googly continued to cause problems. What surprised me was the amount of bounce he managed to achieve. When leggies get bounce they can be a real handful.

The other big positive from day four was the maturity shown by Haseeb Hameed. With Cook looking nervous at the other end, I imagine Ben Duckett might have lost his head a little and tried to replicate his cameo at Dhaka. Instead Hamed played with consummate composure, decent technique, and looked every inch a test opening bat.

We need to stick with this guy even if he struggles somewhat at home next summer when the ball’s moving around more. However one defines ‘it’, Prince Haseeb, as I’m going to call him (nauseatingly) forevermore, certainly seems to possess it. I love the way he plays straight, drives elegantly, and most importantly of all, shares a birthday with yours truly.

Although Cook eventually settled down and encouragingly found some rhythm as the evening session progressed, an alien inadvertently turning up at Rajkot might have suspected Hameed was the one with 29 test hundreds to his name, not his illustrious partner.

Before I sign off – and I look forward to hearing what others think will happen tomorrow – I just wanted to mention the pitch. On the face of it, scores of 537, 488 and 114-0 suggest it’s something of a road. It hasn’t really played that way though. It’s obviously still good for batting (how could it not be?) but plenty of deliveries are disturbing the surface. More than the odd ball has bounced alarmingly and really spat at the batsmen.

I wonder if there will be a tipping point when the surface suddenly becomes reminiscent of Dhaka and Chittagong? And if that happens, will it happen early enough to give England a chance of taking ten wickets in sixty overs? I doubt it but stranger things have happened.

Oh, and by the way, have you noticed how I refuse to even contemplate the possibility of an England defeat tomorrow. It can’t happen. Definitely not. Well, almost definitely not.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with BettingTips4You

10 comments

  • No we can’t. There’s barely anything in the pitch.
    I’d just bat all day. Let the bowlers put their feet up. There’s 4 tests in 5 weeks to play.
    Hopefully Duckett can get some 2nd innings runs and all 7 have some sort of score to take forward.

    Re HH. He looks solid and I thought he batted excellently this evening but please everybody just calm down.
    Its a nice innings on a benign pitch. Not a 100 on a sticky dog in Jo’burg.
    I hope he’s the real deal , he’s just what we need. I just hope he’s opening the batting in June 2018 after playing 17 tests (5 in India, 4 v SA and an ashes) if he is then we can say he’s the real deal

  • Come on guys. Where’s the optimism? Yes a win is unlikely but it CAN happen. Pressure can do funny things to a batting side. India have never been particularly strong mentally.

    • What pressure !??

      Flat road, too many runs to tempt a chase. Just sit in, take no risks and it’s an easy draw. I do find it amusing when people rant on about pressure when they’ve scored to many runs to actually apply pressure..

      That’s like when a team thunders 300+ on a Saturday, has you 4 down quickly and takes about ‘pressure’… not really, we aren’t winning from here so it’s just a net

      • I notice you’re posting at 8.45am. Do you think we batted too conservatively this morning and left the declaration too late? I was slightly fearful that Cook and Hameed would bat for too long.

        • Yes. 300 off 50 overs was safe. He basically said ‘well we can’t now lose so please lose your heads and get out’. Show some attacking intent.. if you think you’ll play on another road like this then they are deluded.. Bunsens for the rest of the tour

          Which India nearly did… they found some interesting ways to give their wickets away which was amusing.

  • I really think that England could have declared a handful of overs earlier than they did. 290 from 55 would have given more of an opportunity than 310 from 49 for an England victory. I don’t buy that the pitch has been an utter road. It has been a slow turner, but frankly India’s spinners have been mediocre, with them not hitting their right lengths and lines often enough. There have been quite a number of missed chances on both teams and a moderately lower amount of these would have meant that perhaps there would have been a bit more going on it at this moment in time. However now, I think both sides will be walking off some time before the end of the mandatory last 15.

  • What a wasted opportunity that was. We’ll regret being so cautious later in the series. This was probably the best chance to win we’ll get. 310 off 50, on a 5th day pitch? Jeez, that was all England managed on Day 1, off 93! I agree we couldn’t afford to risk losing, but even with all else being equal 275 off 55, or even a handful of overs earlier than that, would have been fine. Also, it was frustrating England didn’t make more of their wickets in hand. Fast-scoring batsmen like Duckett, Bairstow, Ali and Woakes didn’t even get a knock. They really should have been using up these wickets in pursuit of 40 or 50 more before lunch. There’s also no reason why just because it’s a Test match, the next batsman can’t be running down the steps and into the middle the moment another is out, to really inject urgency into proceedings. I think India would have struggled to survive 70 overs today, and England should have made sure they had to face them.

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