Time to call it a morning. England will resume tomorrow needing another 429 runs to go 2-0 up, which is about as close to impossible as cricket can get. India need seven wickets and could grab them before most of England’s supporters stir from their beds. Still, before the series began Joe Root would surely have taken 1-1 with two to play, especially as the first of those two (both taking place at Ahmedabad) is the pink-ball Test, which should make Anderson’s swing as lethal as Ashwin’s spin. Thanks for your company and highly entertaining correspondence. The match report will be along soon, and the OBO will be back at 4am GMT sharp.
The last word goes to Hanno Prinz of Deutsche Bank. “It goes without saying, that as a German, I am a complete and utter cricket noob, but have been brought in contact with this marvellous game by my many colleagues from India within the bank. I just wanted to briefly mention that I enormously enjoy your musings to great lengths as they are as witty as they are funny – pure gold, nearly over for over :-) Finally: may I ask, what the meaning of ‘OBO’ is, a term so widely used in the chat, herewith displaying my complete foolishness? Cheers!” I think you’ll find it’s a city in the Central African Republic.
“I’ve never really understood the emotive term ‘a doctored pitch’,” says Ian Forth. “I remember Neil Harvey spitting the word out about the pitch where Jim Laker took all his wickets in 1956. Surely yes, if the curators raked it up between innings. No, if they prepared a pitch which is, self-evidently, the same for both sides. It might favour the home side, but Australians would bristle if the old WACA trampoline had been described as ‘doctored’. Sure, we can argue the odds about the platonic nature of a ‘bad’ cricket pitch, but I’d rather have this one than a flatbed, quite honestly.” Agreed – the really flat ones are the worst, and they are often described as ‘good’.
“I must say there’s a lot of nonsense being talked about this pitch,” says Kim Thonger. “It’s substantially better than some of the wickets I’ve played on immediately south of the Grand Pier on the beach at Weston-super-Mare, between the Punch and Judy show and the whelk stall. I made a stylish triple hundred there in August 1970, against a family from Wolverhampton, admittedly facing a tennis ball, but the turn and bounce was quite remarkable as David Coleman used to say.”
“A daft suggestion from Craig McEwan,” says Jonathan Gresty. “What better practice than batting for the next day and a half and winning the Test by one wicket?”
“England need to remember,” says Shankar Mony, “that this is just round two of a four-Test series. Good batting now could work for them later!”
“Enjoying the OBO!” says Craig McEwan. “Can a case be made for England getting out quickly, so they can have a couple of days’ more practice before the next Test?”
Stumps: England tottering
19th over: England 53-3 (Lawrence 19, Root 2) Later in the over, Root is saved by an inside edge. It’s all happening. And that’s a fiery end to another fascinating day. Virat Kohli recovered from the dent to his pride in the first innings to make a formidable fifty in the second. Ravi Ashwin cashed in, adding a hundred to his five-for and becoming only the second man ever to pull off that trick three times in Tests.
England, handed a doomed mission, set off brightly, but both openers’ techniques were exposed – Sibley right away, Burns after a brief salvo. Dan Lawrence did well to make it through to the close, Jack Leach got a golden duck, and Joe Root is only still there thanks to a large slice of luck.
Still, there’s nothing happening to Root’s team that can’t be sorted with another double hundred, as Ian Copestake senses. “Echoing the Star Wars narrative,” he writes, “one England batsman will find his daddy.”
Wicket? The Indians think they've got Root
But he’s saved by umpire’s call! On impact – facing Axar, Root appeared to be plumb LBW, although the TV umpire seemed to think the appeal was for caught behind. “I’m flabbergasted,” says Mark Butcher. “I’m giving that out all day long.”
18th over: England 52-3 (Lawrence 19, Root 1) The point of sending out Leach was to save Joe Root for tomorrow, but here he is. If he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, it’s not showing, as he clips his second ball, from Ashwin, into the leg side for a single.
17th over: England 50-3 (Lawrence 18, Root 0) Kohli had four men round the bat for Leach, and I was wondering why he didn’t have nine, but he had one where it mattered.
Wicket! Leach c Rohit b Axar 0 (England 50-3)
England send out a nightwatchman, who doesn’t survive two balls. Leach turns Azar straight to the man at leg gully, and the collapse is on.
Wicket!! Burns c Kohli b Ashwin 25 (England 49-2)
Ashwin lures Burns into a crooked poke, and the nick loops up to give a simple catch to Kohli at gully. Character will only get you so far.
15th over: England 48-1 (Burns 25, Lawrence 16) Again, a single to each batsman off Axar, who beats Lawrence with a classical delivery, landing on off and spinning away.
14th over: England 46-1 (Burns 24, Lawrence 15) The cameras find Chris Silverwood deep in conversation with Ed Smith. Mark Butcher reckons they’re discussing whether to replace Dan Lawrence with either Zak Crawley, who is fit again after hurting his wrist, or Jonny Bairstow, who’s back from his breather. Lawrence, somehow sensing this, dances down the dustbowl and wallops Ashwin for six. Like Burns, he is showing some character here.
13th over: England 40-1 (Burns 24, Lawrence 9) A single to each batsman off Patel, who is a slinger, but a high-class one.
“Star Wars,” says Rob Lewis. “To whom it may concern (Stokes?). May the fours be with you...”
12th over: England 38-1 (Burns 23, Lawrence 8) Burns gives Ashwin the charge, only manages a push, but thinks he may as well take a quick single as he’s halfway there already. Lawrence gets a ripper that beats him and Pant to go for four byes. Pant is a thrilling young cricketer but, right now, he’s all mouth and no gauntlets.
“Hi Tim from Ian in a wet Side,” says our Turkey correspondent, Ian Wilson. “Thanks for keeping me awake this morning with some great comments and airing of fans’ missives. I have worked it out: these two will put on 150, Root will score 150, and Stokes and Foakes will take us home with half a day to spare. Still don’t see many face masks in that crowd.”
11th over: England 33-1 (Burns 22, Lawrence 8) Lawrence takes his cue from Burns and tucks into Axar, twice giving him the charge and getting four. The first was an elegant whip, the second a rather shaky chip, but they all count and this is already a better start than England managed in the first innings.
10th over: England 25-1 (Burns 22, Lawrence 0) Burns, still purposeful, glances Ashwin for four, then risks the sweep and gets it right, meeting the ball early and striking it square for four more. He has rightly decided to ditch the sobriety advocated by Chris Silverwood: for this England top order, on this surface, attack is the only form of defence.
9th over: England 17-1 (Burns 14, Lawrence 0) So Axar gets the breakthrough and England are on the slide again. Out comes Dan Lawrence, who has done nothing to deserve being thrown in at No.3 on a dustbowl – though, on the other hand, he has nothing to lose.
Wicket! Sibley LBW b Patel 3 (England 17-1)
Sometimes the OBO is just the chronicle of a wicket foretold. Sibley, all at sea from the start, goes down prodding as he plays across a straight skiddy one from Axar Patel. The finger goes up and his mate Burns says it’s not worth reviewing.
8th over: England 17-0 (Burns 14, Sibley 3) A maiden from Ashwin to Burns, who is the more assured of the two, not that this is saying a great deal.
7th over: England 17-0 (Burns 14, Sibley 3) A maiden from Patel to Sibley, who is looking as clueless as he did in Galle in his first three innings of this tour.
“Since the result in really not in question now,” says Cathy Anderton, “I have what must be the most useless question ever. Why do all the numbers on all the shirts have little white dots at the bottom? Does nobody in cricket know how numbers work?” Ha.
6th over: England 17-0 (Burns 14, Sibley 3) “I’m supremely confident,” says Richard Hirst. “The pitch will prove that it’s unplayable by being unwicketkeeperable and England will win with byes the highest scorer.” And just as I paste that in, Burns is dropped by Pant behind the stumps off Ashwin. Deciding that he may as well go out with all guns blazing, Burns trots down the track and plays a straight push for four, then tucks off the hip for two. He’s certainly got the character.
5th over: England 9-0 (Burns 7, Sibley 2) Off goes Ishant and back comes Axar, from the other end. Burns clips him for a single while Sibley prods at thin air. These two are really not the pair you would choose to open on a dustbowl. Where’s Keaton Jennings when his country needs him?
“So, channelling the Star Wars analogy,” says an email, “England should take heart from the Rebels defeating Darth Vader: bat long and prosper. Chris Purcell, in a galaxy, not so far away.”
4th over: England 8-0 (Burns 6, Sibley 2) Axar’s spell is finished, after one over – it turns out that Ashwin was off the field, possibly renegotiating his contract. Now he’s back and he comes straight on, to torment Dom Sibley, who is staying in his crease and poking at the ball as if it was on fire. He does manage to get off the mark with a tuck for two.
3rd over: England 6-0 (Burns 6, Sibley 0) A maiden from Ishant as Burns plays a pull, too early, and gets it on the toe-end. Meanwhile Kohli is whipping up the crowd with that appears to be a wolf-whistle. I don’t remember Ajit Wadekar ever doing that.
“India’s numbers 8-11 made a combined 132 in their second innings,” says Peter Kingsnorth. “Whole England team made 134 in their first innings. The pitch isn’t anywhere near unplayable, the England spinners just haven’t been/aren’t good enough.”
2nd over: England 6-0 (Burns 6, Sibley 0) Kohli decides to give all-action Ashwin a breather and hands the new ball to Axar Patel. His first ball is a ripper, beating Dom Sibley’s prod and sending up a puff of dust. There are 17 overs left tonight and England will be doing well if they lose only two wickets.
1st over: England 6-0 (Burns 6, Sibley 0) So England set off in pursuit of 482 to win the match, go 2-0 up and break the world record for a fourth-innings chase. Rory Burns starts as if he thinks it might be possible, flicking Ishant Sharma for four, then shovelling into the covers for two. His batting is threatening to resemble his mullet – flamboyant without being very convincing.
“You say Pitch Wars,” writes Raj in Edinburgh, “I say Blade Runner. England may well be channelling that grizzled tailender Roy (Gareth) Batty, who once reminisced: ‘Indian attacks on fire off the shoulder of Ashwin. I watched Carrom-balls glitter in the dust near the Pattabhiraman Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.’” That may be peak OBO.
Wicket! Ashwin b Stone 106 (India 286 all out)
Got him at last! Ashwin plays an understandably weary pull and drags it on. That’s the end of a merry last-wicket partnership of 49, and of a mercilessly efficient innings by Ashwin.
“Loving the completely impartial defence of a wicket that would make even a hardened Taunton groundsman blush,” says Brian Withington. “However, I’m wondering whether a pitch can deteriorate so much that it becomes positively benign – or is that just the England bowling?”
85th over: India 284-9 (Ashwin 104, Siraj 16) It’s difficult to tell why Kohli hasn’t declared. Maybe he wants to give Siraj the chance to reach his hundred. Siraj takes the hint and slog-sweeps another six. Ashwin, by the way, is now second in the all-time table of cricketers from any country who have a hundred and a five-for in the same Test. The only man ahead of him is Ian Botham, now Lord Beefy of Brexit.
“This,” says Andrew Miller of Cricinfo on Twitter, “is turning into a very old-fashioned pants-down England overseas drubbing, fit to rank alongside Brisbane 2002 and Kolkata 1992-93. Still, 1-1 with two to play is better than those series ever threatened to be!”
84th over: India 276-9 (Ashwin 103, Siraj 9) Root removes Moeen, whose last over went for 13 off the bat and 17 in all, and hands the nearly new ball to Olly Stone. His third ball is a 144kph beamer, heading straight for Ashwin’s groin, thankfully fended off. Stone apologises immediately, finds his length and bowls a maiden, which is a minor triumph in the circumstances.
83rd over: India 276-9 (Ashwin 103, Siraj 9) Leach continues and now Siraj comes to the party, slogging for two, then swinging a straight six. He’s missed by Pope at short leg, then dropped by Root at midwicket – both hard chances, and both red herrings as India’s lead is now a gargantuan 471.
“A very good morning to you Tim.” You too, David Gaskell. “Talk of pitches, then Ireland being mentioned, reminds me of a commentating gem from John Arlott. In a John Player League match, Clive Rice was slinging down some part time off-breaks and his team mate, who was an Irish professional in the English game, stopped a run. Arlott burred, ‘One might say, Rice bowls and paddy fields’.”
A hundred to Ashwin!
82nd over: India 268-9 (Ashwin 103, Siraj 1) Siraj plays a forward defensive off Moeen, middles it for once, and is so pleased with himself that he holds the pose. Ashwin sees an easy single, charges down the pitch, and practically meets him in the crease, but they get away with it as there’s nobody at cover point. Ashwin celebrates by mowing Moeen for six. There’s a delay while the ball is disinfected after landing in the crowd, who have turned into a sea of screams. Ashwin drives for two to reach 99. And then he charges, edges over the slips... and gets four! That’s a poor shot but a fine hundred, no mean feat on this pitch, from a man who has bowled 96 overs, and taken 14 wickets, in ten days.