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IND vs ENG, 2024: Hartley’s spin, Pope’s courage - How England overcame the Hyderabad Challenge

India vs England 2023-24: Hartley’s spin, Pope’s courage - How England overcame the Hyderabad Challenge. Top takeaways for England from the first test match of the series.

India vs England 2023-24: Top Takeaways from first Test for England |  Walking Wicket (Images_ ©englandcricket_Twitter)
India vs England: Ben Stokes impressed with his captaincy (Images: ©englandcricket/Twitter)

Ben Stokes didn’t hesitate once before calling this 28-run victory against India their greatest-ever Test victory under his captaincy. England’s new project under Brendon McCullum and Stokes has already given the side and their supporters some proud moments to treasure, but nothing comes in front of their mind-blowing performance in Hyderabad.


For any Test side, their biggest achievement is to come from behind in winning the Test match, showing lots of character, courage and skill. This is especially true against a team like India, who are invincible at home, losing just two of their 42 Tests at home since 2013.


Captain Stokes showed an attacking mindset in field placement

England’s preparation for coming to India was a hot topic. But McCullum and Stokes controlled the preparation in the best shape. They prepared spinning tracks in Abu Dhabi and played around the group, to understand their strength and weakness. 

It could be a wrong explanation for ‘Bazball’ to think it only means going after the bowler from the very first delivery, but England’s new approach has taken the fear of defeat out of the side. The captain-coach and team management have given their self-belief to the players. Bazball is also about Stokes’s awkward field placement or bowling changes, which has worked on most of the occasions. 

Victory came late on the fourth day for England, so late that only four balls were remaining, Stokes having already claimed the extra half-hour. Ravichandran Ashwin’s premeditated step-out shot against a wrong length delivery gave a different energy to the England fans, who were already enjoying Australia’s defeat at the hands of West Indies.


But Stokes's field placement in the second innings was far better compared to the first innings. He kept the catching positions of short leg, and first slip, but also kept his men out on the boundary to counter India’s attacking shots. There were times when he made specific bowling plans against particular India batters. 

His decision to give Tom Hartley a long spell in the first innings proved to be the right move. The Lancashire spinner’s immense skill and character helped him lead the attack on his maiden Test, returning with figures of 7/62 in 26.2 overs with five maidens.


India vs England, 1st Test, Day 4_ Ollie Pope scored 196 for England in 2nd innings _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©englandcricket_Twitter)
Ollie Pope's 196 derailed India's plan (Images: ©englandcricket/Twitter)

Ollie Pope sweeps and reverse sweeps to counter Jadeja-Ashwin threat

Coming back from a seven-month layoff after his shoulder injury, with no form to speak of, Ollie Pope made a career-defining 196-run knock in the third innings of a Test match in India against the legendary spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.


Very few batters in recent times have toured India and looked this comfortable against this quality bowling attack. In the first innings, Pope looked like a cat in the hot tin roof, as he was throwing his hard hand at almost every single delivery, and finally saw his outside edge being carried in the hands of the first slip. 

And he made a small change in his batting stance. He looked calm in whatever little amount of deliveries he defended. But he never looked to give the spinners any chance to bowl at him at a particular spot. Two dot deliveries and he was almost prepared for a sweep shot. The reverse sweep or the switch hit to collect boundaries helped him in destroying the line and lengths of both Jadeja and Ashwin, both of whom for the very first time have been hit for 100+ runs together in their side’s second innings of a home Test.


India made Pope’s job a bit easy with a few drop chances and sloppy fielding. Also, their field placement helped him get those easy singles and doubles to keep the scoreboard ticking. His 196 has now surpassed Alastair Cook’s 176 in Ahmedabad as the best third-innings knock from an England batter in this country. Pope’s knock will give the team confidence for the rest of the series. 

Very rarely Ashwin and Jadeja have looked clueless bowling at home, but Pope’s six-and-a-half-hour exhibition of courage on a sluggish pitch, with a certain style of play has stunned the Indian bowling line-up. Even though Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett didn’t make a huge score, their application with the bat too in the top order set the platform for the batting line-up to follow.


India vs England, 1st Test, Day 4_ Tom Hartley took 7 wickets in 2nd innings for England _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
Tom Hartley was good with bat as well as ball in 1st Test (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)

Lower-order contribution and Hartley’s heart out spin masterclass

England was 163/5 when Stokes was sent back with a ripper from Ashwin. But Pope stood there and managed to form partnerships with the lower order. Ben Foakes gave him a great hand with a 112-run stand, where he calmed the situation from the other end. The 64-run stand with Rehan Ahmed was about bursting the firecrackers, while the 80-run partnership with Tom Hartley stretched them to 420.

Stokes then turned the ball to Hartley, who led the attack in the absence of Jack Leach, who was struggling with his left knee injury. Hartley was average in the first innings, but he looked settled and calm with overs under his belt. Pope’s sharp catch of Yashasvi Jaiswal at short leg gave Hartley his first scalp of the innings, while two balls later it was almost an action replay against Shubman Gill.

His most important wicket of the afternoon came when Rohit Sharma missed a forward defence and the ball slid on to trap him in front of the stumps. After Axar Patel’s return catch, he pressed the panic button in the Indian camp, as they lost four wickets inside 11 overs after the Tea break. 

His most memorable wicket, as he mentioned, was Mohammad Siraj, who decided to end the game on the fourth day with a weird step out, as Hartley finished with 7/62, England’s second-best fourth innings Test bowling figure against India.

This victory for England, especially after conceding a 190-run deficit in the first innings, will give their side immense belief and joy for the rest of the series. They are on a mission to end India’s 12-year-long undefeated record at home. 

The second of the five-match Test series begins on February 2 at the Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium, Visakhapatnam.  


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