Shoaib Bashir takes four wickets as England take control against India | England in India 2024

A learned punt is how Brendon McCullum described Shoaib Bashir earlier in this tour, so enticed was the England head coach by the raw attributes of a debutant with a jersey number, 67, to match his first-class bowling average.

And on a difficult second day in Ranchi, a Test match at stake, a series at stake and Yashasvi Jaiswal threatening to once again prove an unsolvable puzzle, that intuition paid off handsomely. Bashir’s career-best figures of four for 84 from 32 overs, allied with two wickets for Tom Hartley, guided England to a position of dominance in the end.

Not since the summer of 1995 against the West Indies at home have England played a decisive match at 2-2, but that prospect now looms large, with India reaching 219 for seven in response to their 353 all out and on land that was already heading south. . Win here and the tour goes the other way: a fifth Test shootout at Dharamshala.

Of course, there is still a lot to play for. But Ben Stokes could hardly have hoped for a better response from his troops after the rout at Rajkot. Over the course of two and a half sessions on day two, buoyed by late runs from Joe Root’s unbeaten 122 and an entertaining 58 from Ollie Robinson early on, they showed character in abundance.

At the center of this affair was a 20-year-old in Bashir who, 12 months ago, was seeking a deal with the county, let alone trying to attract the attention of national selectors. Returning to the side after his four-wicket debut in Visakhapatnam, he bowled a marathon 31 over from the players’ pavilion that derailed India on their own terms.

Shoaib Bashir in action on day two. Photograph: Ajit Solanki/AP

There had been a good start before lunch, with Jimmy Anderson taking the lead from Rohit Sharma for Test wicket no. 697. But at 84 for one, with Jaiswal again looking impenetrable, a grind seemed entirely possible. Such thoughts were raised by behind edges that were not carrying, including Jaiswal’s on 40 that was not ruled out by the third umpire, Joel Wilson.

Heads could have rolled at this point, with England’s celebrations in the group interrupted by a zoomed-in replay which suggested the ball was skimming the grass past Ben Foakes’ gloves. Robinson was the bowler denied here on a day when he asked Jaiswal further questions. That said, mid-70s speeds didn’t really help the problem either.

Yet at tea time, having bowled throughout the session, Bashir reduced the hosts to 131 for four, stifling a neat 38 from Shubman Gill lbw, repeating Rajat Patidar’s trick and calmly teasing a bat-pad from Ravindra Jadeja after some of the monstrous six. Everyone was greeted by a violent air punch; each one was a dream lived.

There was little doubt which was more valuable, Jaiswal’s fiery bat finally plunged into the ice after tea when, on 73, a cannon shot returned to the stumps. It was a maddening end to another special innings, one that saw Jaiswal hit his 23rd six of the series. No Indian player has hit so many in a calendar year and it’s only February.

It was also helped by a rather curious surface for a home side leading 2-1 with two to play, the variable bounce that reared its head on the first morning beginning to return as the day wore on. This has brought England recruits into the competition and, if they cross the finish line here, many will revert to their original selection for this trip.

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Considering their options in a county game that sees the fewest rounds of spin bowling of any domestic first-class competition, England invoked the spirit of Jim Malone in the Untouchables, ignoring the apples in the barrel and picking them straight from the tree. They wanted tall spinners and Hartley, like Bashir, is a beanbag measuring 6ft 4in.

It was this attribute that brought the last two wickets of a largely one-sided day, Sarfaraz Khan falling to a sparkling catch from Root at slip on 16 and Ravichandran Ashwin lbw to a low shot. The latter was also the third heavyweight of the day to be confirmed by referee’s decision, the element of the review system that Stokes wanted to get rid of after Rajkot.

Yashasvi Jaiswal is played by Shoaib Bashir. Photograph: Ajit Solanki/AP

Aside from Jaiswal’s final gem, this irony was perhaps the main source of Indian pleasure before a late, characterful fightback from their wicketkeeper, Dhruv Jurel. From 177 for seven, he put together an unbroken stand of 42 with Kuldeep Yadav before the close, dropping out hard as Bashir and Hartley probed.

But with the odd ball still shooting low from the box during that late rally, and the host team expected to strike last, they still left the ground knowing they had a mountain to climb to prevent a deciding game in the foothills of the Himalayas.

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