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India 294 for 7 (Pant 101, Sundar 60*, Anderson 3-40) lead England 205 by 89 runs
A day of two halves in Ahmedabad saw India seize control of the fourth Test, as an innings of two halves from Rishabh Pant cut England down to size. Pant's maiden hundred on home soil was a masterpiece of adapting his game to the demands of conditions and match situation, and by the time he had flamed out, English hopes of hanging in the game had largely gone up in smoke.
Seeking the sort of first-innings runs that would define the contest, India had stuttered and stumbled to 146 for 6 during the afternoon session, as England succeeded in their attempts to control the run rate while making regular incisions. Ben Stokes, who hurled himself through 20 overs in the day for the wickets of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, and James Anderson set the tone from the outset as Joe Root shuffled his hand adroitly in defence of his side's mediocre efforts with the bat.
But the struggles of Dom Bess left England's four-man attack stretched, as a century stand between Pant and Washington Sundar wrested back control. Initially, runs came in circumspect fashion as India sought to rebuild, and had Bess been granted an lbw decision when Pant had 35 - Nitin Menon's call was upheld by the narrowest of margins on DRS - things could have taken a wholly different course. As it was, Pant took the game into his own hands.
A watchful half-century from 82 balls provided the kindling for Pant to ignite against a toiling opposition late in the day. Sparks flew and runs flowed, England's plans to bowl dry blown clean out of the water on a parched late Gujarati afternoon, as Pant raced on to his hundred in the space of another 33 deliveries. He fell moments later, but Sundar carried on the good work to the close to leave India in sight of 300 and a potentially decisive lead.
4.55pm: Bess' drought continues
It's not been Dom Bess' day, and he still can't buy a wicket for love nor money. He thought he had trapped Sundar lbw, but Ultra-Edge revealed a thick spike on review and the on-field decision was overturned. His struggles will doubtless be a talking point overnight after a difficult return to the side. 141 runs and just one wicket in the final session, and that chink of light for England has quickly turned back into darkness.
4.35pm: Washington marches on
He was slipstreaming Pant for much of the afternoon, but this has been a fine knock from Washington Sundar, too. Anyone who took notice of his Test debut in Australia earlier this year would know he can bat; but his second Test fifty, reached via a brace of back-foot off-side carves that have been a feature of his innings, has further bolstered India's position in this Test. Stokes is back as Root shuffles his options but England look to be running on empty.
4.21pm: Anderson strikes back
India were 80/4 when Pant walked in. Now they lead by 54 runs!
Rishabh Pant plays a Test innings of the highest quality and he gets a standing ovation from the Ahmedabad crowd #INDvENG
And like a typhoon sweeping through, almost as soon as the winds have whipped up then they are gone! Anderson scrags the young punk, though it was more a case of living and dying by the sword: Pant swung hard but picked out midwicket on the pull, Root holding on to a stinger to end a 113-run stand. But Pant takes the ovation as he walks off, he has forged a position of some strength for his side.
4.15pm: Pant soars!
Goes to his hundred with a slog-swept six! A touch of the Sehwags, a hint of the Gilchristian, but you suspect Rishabh Pant is a complete one-off. Having anchored the innings for an 82-ball half-century, he's only needed another 33 to get his century. Incendiary batting and it has turned the heat up on England, to the delight of a vocal crowd at Motera.
4.05pm: New ball, same Pant
England take the second new ball, the venerable James Anderson trooping to the top of his mark. Anderson smiles about as often as Morissey in at a meat market, and standing in the mid-afternoon heat, you can imagine he's had his fill of hard yakka. But the hard, new sphere in his hands could unlock the game for England again, so in he runs, lands the ball on a 'kerchief outside off... and here comes Rishabh Pant, destroyer of worlds, slapping his first delivery on the up through mid-off. Next ball, he's crouching and flat-batting a cut for four more. Anderson has only conceded 19 runs from his previous 102 balls, now Pant is tucking in. A zippy bouncer sits him back, but the momentum has shifted in this innings.
Next over he whips Stokes to the right of midwicket, before Washington Sundar throws the bat for a couple more boundaries. Then comes the coup de grace, a reverse-scooped four over the cordon to bring up the hundred stand for India's seventh wicket! The impudence of youth, and Anderson actually allows himself a wry semi-smile now. What can you do?
3.42pm: India in front
Under Pressure 7th wicket stands for India in the last few years
Speaking of England beginning to flag, Pant senses the moment and decides to buckle his swash against Stokes, before the arrival of the new nut. First he slashes a fat top edge over the cordon, then wallops a pull in front of deep midwicket, to draw the scores level. A couple more poked through the covers takes India into a first-innings lead, and Stokes looks spent, losing the ball in his delivery stride, then delivering a beamer to Sundar. Wheels ever-so-slightly coming off.
England have turned back to Ben Stokes, with the new ball five overs away. The longer this partnership stretches on, the more it puts into focus the struggles of Dom Bess, as well as the decision to go in with only two other frontline bowlers. James Anderson will be readying himself for another burst, and given Stokes' mentality, he could just bowl on through. But with India approaching a lead, and still four wickets standing, for the first time today the tourists are looking a bit flat.
Skips out and nudges through mid-on, that's a half-century for Rishabh Pant - from 82 balls, his second-slowest in Tests (after a certain knock at the Gabba). The Ahmedabad crowd get their gratification, after Rohit missed out on his landmark earlier in the day, as India continue to steadily erode the deficit through this seventh-wicket pair.
A calmness and maturity about Pant's batting today. Very impressive. A huge hour of the game coming up...#INDvENG
England go back to Jack Leach in search of control after Bess' four-over spell costs 19. In a low-scoring game, it can take just a partnership or two to tip the scales one way or another - Pant and Sundar have now added more than 30 together, bringing first-innings parity within sight for India.
2.45pm: Pant's on fire (or going nicely, at least)
This could be a pivotal hour or so, with India aiming to whittle down that lead with wickets in hand. They won't mind seeing Dom Bess resume his spell after tea, even more so when he starts with a full toss that Washington Sundar carts through midwicket for four. He's then slapped hard for four more by Rishabh Pant after dropping short, as ten runs come off the over. Pant might have been a tad lucky to survive a tight lbw before the break, but you can be sure he'll be keen to cash in.
India 153 for 6 (Pant 36*, Sundar 1*) trail England 205 by 52 runs
England chipped out two more wickets during the afternoon session, including the key scalp of Rohit Sharma, as they kept alive hopes of parlaying an unexpected first-innings lead in Ahmedabad. With Rishabh Pant reining himself him to score an unbeaten 36 from 62, India went to tea precariously poised six down.
Rohit and Pant had eased along to a 41-run stand after lunch when Ben Stokes struck as the drinks break approached. Rohit fell one run short of his third 50-plus score of the series, lbw to a nip-backer that went with umpire's call on DRS. Jack Leach then had R Ashwin caught at short midwicket, and England's afternoon could have been even better if Nitin Menon had raised his finger to a Dom Bess appeal against Pant that was deemed to be clipping the bails in the last over before the interval.
2.05pm: Stoking the flames
He has now been given a breather, but Stokes has really pulled a shift as England's second seamer in this match. This is the most number of overs he has bowled in an innings since the 2020 New Year's Test in Cape Town - when he helped batter down the door on the final evening at Newlands. He had only delivered 15 overs in the series to this point, but has sent down 17 over the course of days one and two in Ahmedabad, claiming the wickets of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma while going at less than two an over. Whether it's Chattogram, Colombo or Headingley, he does like to get his hands dirty with the ball.
1.55pm: Another one gone
Ashwin survived a peppering from Stokes, but he isn't able to hang around for long as England bag their sixth wicket. Jack Leach gets his second of the day, well held at short midwicket as Ashwin attempted to work to leg. Still a bit of batting to come in the shape of Washington Sundar and Axar Patel, but a lot on Pant's shoulders now, as India seek to better England's 205.
Having sung his praises, umpire Menon has now got one wrong, R Ashwin successfully reviewing after a Stokes bumper flicked his shoulder on the way through. The next ball was edged through the cordon for four. Getting lively out there!
1.08pm: Hitman shot down!
Fifty up for Rohit Sharma, from 144 balls. Third time he's done so in the series - and each one in the first innings of low-scoring Tests Stokes has done it again, ripping out the big wicket of Rohit! I won't pretend I hadn't been writing about how he was the man keeping England at bay, "mixing stalwart defence with only the occasional flourish"; but after a double change in the bowling, Root and Stokes replacing Bess (8-0-30-0) and Anderson, Rohit got stuck on 49 and then pinned at the end of the over, a marginal call as Stokes brought one back in, umpire's call on line and impact... but Nitin Menon raised his shooter skyward, and India are five down, still 84 runs adrift.
12.40pm: Making the Bess of it
Time to hear from our England correspondent, George Dobell, on how the tourists might approach the afternoon session, and in particular the question of managing Dom Bess...
England have a balancing act here, with control the priority for their four-man attack (five if you include Joe Root). Which brings us to Bess. How should Root be using him today?
He had a major decision to make at lunch. He could either persist with two of the three bowlers who did so well in the morning and risk bowling them into the ground, he could bring himself on or he could give Bess a chance to get into the game. I think he's made the right decision in bowling Bess. That's because, if he doesn't bowl him now, he risks damaging his confidence even further. And you would think he is going to have to bowl a fair bit later in the match. Basically, having picked him, they have to make it work. And the best way to make it work is for him to settle into the game with a spell now. He has a left-hander to target and some help from the surface. It has to be now.
We've already seen stray full tosses and signs that India will look to attack him. Are England going to just have to suck that up for a bit?
Well, it's come to something when you have to ask that about a Test bowler. And a Test offspinner at that. It does remind me a bit of the Ian Salisbury situation. But I'm not sure Bess has the potential upside of a leggie like Salisbury. Really, you need your offspinner to provide control. Not be a risk. As to how India play him... do they need to attack him? If he bowls a four-ball every over, they just need to bat in as risk-free a way as they can and they will pick up runs without drama. I'd think that was the way to go. Looking further ahead... the next few days define Bess' immediate future as a Test player. Right now, it feels as if he has quite a lot to do to prove himself at this level. But he's probably going to be bowling in the fourth innings yet and could still bowl England to a memorable victory. So yes, a lot to unfold in the next couple of days.
It's simply the Bess situation England find themselves in (honk!) - but at least the control and consistency, from Anderson and Stokes in particular, have given Root some breathing room
Yes, they've bowled England back into the match. And this is not Bess' fault: he's been massively over-promoted to fill the chasm that exists in English cricket where a bunch of spinners should be. Just consider this one stat: Bess averages 47 - yes, 47 - in the Second XI Championship. He's pretty much never been first choice for his county and he is being asked to learn his trade in a huge series against the best team in the world. So yes, he's really struggling. But an awful lot has been asked of him. Too much, in my view.
12.15pm: We go again
Hold on to your titfers, Rishabh Pant is out in the middle. England have resumed with Dom Bess and Anderson bowling in tandem, looking to maintain the squeeze they applied in the field this morning. Though between the habitual, seat-of-the-Pant(s) approach of India's No. 6, and Bess' proclivity for drag downs and full tosses, austerity may be hard to maintain.
India 80 for 4 (Rohit 32*) trail England 205 by 125 runs
Three wickets fell during an attritional morning session as India sought the kind of first-innings runs that would define the contest in this fourth Test. Successes for Jack Leach, Ben Stokes and James Anderson - who removed Ajinkya Rahane with the last ball before lunch - buoyed England as they battled to stay in the game.
For the third Test in a row, Rohit Sharma led the way with the bat for the home side, taking a more circumspect approach to be unbeaten on 32 from 106 balls. Virat Kohli made his second duck of the series, bounced out by Stokes, and England could take heart from the way they controlled the run rate - only 56 runs came in 25.5 overs - and then produced vital incisions as the session wore on.
After a tight opening from Anderson and Stokes, Leach separated India's second-wicket pair, sliding a straight delivery into Cheteshwar Pujara's pad fractionally before his bat came through to defend. Kohli was then surprised by a Stokes effort ball to feather an edge, and although Rahane counterattacked effectively, he steered to second slip with the interval looming.
11.20am: Rohit the key man (again)
An intriguing battle is taking shape, with Rohit Sharma tempering his game and Ajinkya Rahane looking to break England's hold with some calculated aggression. Here's Karthik Krishnaswamy on the challenge for batting so far this morning:
"I think this pitch is a bit two-paced, so Rohit has not been able to drive through the line so easily. Before this innings, he had a strike rate of 80-something against the fast bowlers in this series. Here he's not been able to play that sort of game. Even the bouncer that hit his head stopped on him, and he was early on the hook. Even that last ball from Leach that Rahane tried to drive.
"The question is how long England can keep Bess out of the attack. And what happens when he comes on. It feels like India might try to go after him, and that could go both ways."
Sure enough, Dom Bess' introduction sees Rohit bring out the slog-sweep - although he doesn't quite get it all the way, landing between two fielders on the leg-side boundary.
"So far this game has been a little like Bangalore 2017. India got bowled out cheaply on day one, with Nathan Lyon taking an 8-fer, then came back with a bowling performance that was similar to how England have bowled so far."
Now Stokes has bounced out Kohli for his second duck of the series! Up goes Virender Sharma's finger, and although Kohli glares suspiciously at the pitch, he doesn't linger long over thoughts of a review... Huge moment. After their tight start, England have gone bang-bang. Are you watching Australia?!
10.25am: Leach makes one stick!
England get their reward just before the hour mark. Having shackled the scoring, Jack Leach then dispatched Pujara for the fourth time in the series - courtesy of an eagle-eyed bit of umpiring from Nitin Menon. Just 16 runs had come in 12 overs of watchful batting, and Leach then settled nicely into a groove: the wicket-taking ball was flighted enough to draw Pujara forward and then skipped on to hit pad fractionally ahead of defensive bat prod. Pujara immediately reviewed but DRS couldn't save him from what Menon already knew. Sadly for Che Pu, the crowd won't mind, because his wicket brings VIrat Kohli to the crease.
Jack Leach into the attack for the first time today, from the Reliance End, and he's found some turn and a nice line to the two right-handers - both of whom he's had success against this series. Pujara got away with a genuine edge from the final ball of the over, the ball flicking the tips of Ben Foakes' gloves on its way through and diverting down, just short of Stokes at slip.
There's been a change of ends for Stokes, too, after Anderson delivered a searching spell of 5-3-3-0. Rohit, in contrast to his approach this series, has buckled down with the intention of seeing out the newish-ball threat, currently 19 off 74 balls.
Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara, India's second-wicket pair, have made a wary start so far, with just four runs coming from the opening five overs - although Stokes then serves up back-to-back full tosses to Rohit, who slugs the second of them for a boundary. There's been good pace and carry for the seamers, but nothing untoward from the surface.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the pitches in the previous couple of Tests - really, let's not get bogged down with that here - there could be no reasonable complaints about this surface. Indeed, offering something to bowlers of all types and a fair opportunity to score for batsmen, you might well argue it has been an excellent pitch to this point. And if a team wins the toss on such a surface, they surely need to be compiling a first-innings total in excess of 300 and batting into the second day.
England start up with James Anderson, beginning a new spell from the Adani Pavilion End, and Ben Stokes. Anderson has conceded his first runs, but also rapped Rohit Sharma on the pads a couple of times. Time to find out which side of bed this Motera deck has woken up on...
Hello and welcome back to the action. India did a sterling job with the ball on day one - even if England's rummage down the back of the sofa did bring them 200 for the first time in a while - and can take purposeful strides towards the WTC final with a solid showing from their batsmen. The tourists are in need of a cascade of wickets, but probably won't get quite so much help from the pitch. Either way, let's hope it's a good, honest scrap between professionals who care about the sport they love. Shall we?