Axar Patel takes off the listless England, however Dan Lawrence refuses to wither Simon Burnton
ÖIn the past few months the Prime Minister has tried to characterize the opposition leader as "Captain Hindsight" in a less than convincing manner. Perhaps the moniker would better stick with the leader of the English cricket team, who came out at the start of the fourth test, won the throw and promptly announced his best team for the third game in the series.
Unfortunately, the third Test had already been played, with England on that occasion setting up the perfect XI for a fictional game that never saw the light of day, a game in which sailors were useful and batsmen later became unnecessary with the success of those games above. In case the sailors achieved little, the batsmen even less, and England would not make that mistake again. Not when there were so many new ones to try.
Two bowlers were left out – although Jofra Archer's persistent problems with the elbow forced that problem – to allow for the selection of an additional batsman and spinner. This resulted in them being significantly understaffed in a seam bowling department now occupied by Jimmy Anderson and all-rounder Ben Stokes, who played a total of 15 overs in the series' first three games and played with an upset stomach. With the utmost inevitability, as many wickets fell on the first morning as in all of the previous test.
Fortunately, the returning Dan Lawrence looked a lot more than a desperate pick with an inning of 46 that made a positive impression despite its ugly ending, especially given the standard of much of the English batting.
When Lawrence got 121 for five, he quickly found an unusual level of fluency and sent Axar Patel for handsome fours in a row. The 23-year-old came in 5th in Sri Lanka with mixed results and 3rd in the first two games of this series, before stepping in in an unfamiliar role in 7th and looking more home and ended the game in a particularly fine afternoon session Style by calmly defending four Ravichandran Ashwin supplies before sending the final skimming down the ground, one of the day's shots.
Minus the moment the ball on the short leg was looped from the fielder's shoe into the gloves of Rishabh Pant, which was initially spent but knocked over because it ricocheted off Shubman Gill's shoes just before it hit Shubman Gill's shoes, the Lawrence was about to be released was exposed to the greatest apprehension when he drove Ashwin down the floor for four. The ball was struck against the head of Virender Sharma, whose first instinct was to raise both hands. This was an attempt at self-defense that resembled an attempt to rip him out of thin air, but any chance of being caught by the referee ended when the bowler put his fingertips in the way and Sharma threw himself to the ground, with the ball on raced past him on the way to the rope.
Axar Patel celebrates Dom Bess' wicket. Photo: Amit Dave / Reuters
That was the first ball of the 70s over; Lawrence had also hit a limit from the first of the 69th and when he tried to do the same from the first of the 71st it was undone, a totally misjudged attempt to attack Patel that left Pant with the simplest of stumps. Still, as Stokes said, it was "a glimpse of the talent Dan Lawrence has".
The day started with Joe Root winning the litter (England has had a chance of dodging 11 successful litters in their last 12 lengthy encounters with India and 15 out of 18 in the last 18 years) and there is at least one division into which they consistently make the right calls. England batsmen have therefore made the most of a good loft path, but just like you can lead a metaphorical horse to the water without making it drink, you can lead real English openers to day spots, but you cannot make them score points achieve.
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Since Rory Burns and Dom Sibley hung up at the start of the 63 series, England's inaugural partnerships have contributed a total of 29 runs in six innings. By these standards, her 10 on Thursday was a triumph. The pair split when Sibley was tossed off his inside edge by Patel's second ball of the day, another one of that killer straight. Zak Crawley survived twice as well, surviving until his fourth delivery of Patel before placing one in the middle right in the hands of Mohammed Siraj.
Patel, three games and 22 wickets in his testing career, has now sacked each of England's current openers three times in this series: once caught, once bowled, once lbw. What he'll do with them next is everyone's guess.