Ashwin Kuldeep crack ‘bazball’ as England record lowest run rate under Stokes-McCullum era

On a riveting day that saw the balance of the game tip decidedly, India stamped their authority on the fourth Test match against England in Ranchi this Sunday. As the game moved into its third day, the Indian team’s young talent and spin prowess effectively grounded the English side, signalling a dramatic shift in control.

Ranchi’s pitch, which until now had offered a balanced contest between bat and ball, transformed into a treacherous minefield for the batsmen on Day 3, especially favoring the spinners. The cracks on the surface became apparent allies to the home team’s bowling attack as they orchestrated a stunning collapse of England’s batting line-up in the second innings.

India’s first innings saw Dhruv Jurel rise to prominence, carving out a magnificent 90 runs that resuscitated India’s batting aspirations. The youngster’s innings was not just pivotal for the scoreboard but also injected a sense of vigor into the Indian side, which seemed to have carried over into their bowling performance.

The English spinners, meanwhile, had initially read the conditions accurately to bowl out India for 307 despite Jurel’s resistance. Young talent Shoaib Bashir turned heads with his memorable first international five-wicket haul, while Tom Hartley provided staunch support with three wickets of his own.

However, the Indian spin wizards, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, were not to be outdone. Ashwin, particularly lethal with his artful spin, grabbed three quick wickets to assert dominance early in England’s second innings. He went on to secure his 35th five-wicket haul in Test innings, an illustrious record that sets him apart as one of the game’s most effective spinners. Kuldeep Yadav, too, had a field day, claiming four scalps for a mere 22 runs and playing a crucial part in bundling out England for a paltry 145 runs in just 53.5 overs.

This performance limited England’s scoring to a run rate of 2.69, a sluggish pace that marked it as the lowest under the captaincy of Ben Stokes. It was a surprising departure from the aggressive brand of cricket that has come to be associated with Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum since their tenure began in 2022. England, who had previously been playing positive, front-foot cricket, seemed mired by the challenging conditions.

In stark contrast to their fluent 353 runs in the first innings at a run rate of 3.37, England’s combined run rate across both innings stood at a modest 3.13 in Ranchi. This marked a significant departure from their characteristically dominant performances. To date, England has not yet experienced a series defeat under Stokes, having impressively won 13 of their 19 Test matches before this tour of India.

As play concluded for the day, India’s openers Rohit Sharma and Yashasvi Jaiswal looked solid in their response, denying England any potential recovery. With an unbroken partnership of 40 runs, they strategically moved India closer to the 191-run victory target. India now stands a mere 161 runs away from sealing not just the match but also the series, which would be a testament to their home-ground forte and capacity to adapt to the varying demands of test cricket.

While England’s ‘Bazball’ – a term coined for the aggressive approach promoted by McCullum – has been a revelation in recent times, it was India’s day through traditional test-match attrition and the masterful use of spin bowling. This critical juncture in the series illustrates the unpredictable nature of test cricket and how quickly the tides can turn with skill, strategy, and a bit of help from the pitch.

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