After two heavy defeats on rampant turners, England could only blame themselves as they surrendered the initiative with another muddled batting performance on day one of the fourth against India.
The tourists were dismissed for 205 – their best score since the first innings since the first Test but well below a par effort – before India reached 24 for one in response in the series decider.
Much of the time since last week’s two-day defeat at the same ground in Ahmedabad has been filled with debate around the state of the pitch, but there was nothing untoward from this surface. Instead England must look to fine, persistent bowling and more human error at the crease.
There were pockets of resistance – Ben Stokes defying an upset stomach to top-score with 55 in an innings that balanced control with tantalising flashes of power, while Dan Lawrence partially justified his unexpected recall as a specialist number seven with 46.
But for the most part it was a familiar story of misjudged shots, lbws and wasted opportunities. When Jack Leach was last man out in the 76th over, England’s best chance of setting up the game went with him.
England bowed to the inevitable by recalling Dom Bess as a second spinner but, having gone in top-heavy with three frontline pacemen in the third Test, they left James Anderson as the last man standing here. They estimated that Anderson could do enough with the support of all-rounder Stokes, while leaving the majority of the work to the spinners. While that robbed Joe Root of a genuine 90mph option like Mark Wood or Olly Stone, it did allow them to sneak in an extra batsman in the form of Lawrence.
Archer injury watch
Do England have cause to be concerned about Jofra Archer’s fitness? He suffered badly with his right elbow in South Africa in 2019/20 and has now been the subject of two separate injury alerts on this tour. An England statement said Archer was not playing “due to his ongoing right elbow issue” and promised an update in due course. With two months at the IPL on the menu, fingers will be crossed.
View from the middle
Axar’s fast start
Axar Patel has discovered a happy knack of striking at the very start of his spell. In the third Test he removed Jonny Bairstow and Zak Crawley with his first delivery in either innings and here it took him just two attempts to see open his account by cleaning up Dom Sibley.