India ‘not under any pressure’ despite Pope’s 148* and England’s growing lead | Cricket

When Day 3 of the first Test started, India had a lead of 175 runs with a well-set Ravindra Jadeja eyeing his fourth Test century and Axar Patel looking to enhance his reputation as an all-rounder. The probability of England getting batted out of the match was huge. When the day ended, Kevin Pietersen was jokingly informed by the host broadcaster that his request for a flight on Saturday had been denied. England had not only ensured India’s lead didn’t cross 200 but led by a masterful century from Ollie Pope, they also took a a decent lead of 126 runs.

India’s captain Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah on the third day of the first cricket test match between India and England, at Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium(PTI)

It was not England’s day entirely. India had their moments, especially Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin but even they would agree Pope perhaps played the best knock by an overseas batter in recent memory. Yes, Joe Root scored a double century in Chennai in 2021 but the match situation and conditions were vastly different.

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Pope was unbeaten at 148 off 208 balls in an innings that was laced with 17 boundaries – most of them coming from sweeps and reverse sweeps. England were 163 for 5 when captain Ben Stokes was cleaned up by Ashwin, still, 27 runs away from making India bat again. That is where the match started to take a different turn.

Pope got together with Ben Foakes to stitch an invaluable 123-run stand for the sixth wicket. Foakes was bowled by Axar Patel thanks to a delivery that kept low but Pope made sure England fans breathed easy at the close of play.

India not looking at any target

But what does it mean for India? England are ahead by 126 runs with four wickets, including that of Pope, in the bank. Do they worry before coming out to bat in the fourth innings? Bowling coaching Parash Mhambrey doesn’t think so.

“We are not looking at any particular target (to chase) as I said the objective is to come tomorrow morning and get early wickets and limit their total.

“We are not putting any pressure on ourselves by setting any target. We just want to bowl in the right areas to extract turn and bounce from the wicket,” Mhambrey said in his post-day press meet.

Mhambrey based his confidence on the fact that the turn on the pitch is easy to negate as it is not of the sharp kind.

“If you look at the way the game has progressed over the last few days from the first session, the amount of turn the ball has taken, I think it got better in the second innings. I think it is going to get a bit better on the slower side (tomorrow).

“There will be some turn but it is not the usual turn you see in the Indian sub-continental wickets, the sharp turn when the game progresses. There is a little turn but not as challenging,” he noted.

Mhambrey said the Indian bowlers were aware of the ‘Bazball’ tactics the England batters would employ and they were ready to face it even prior to this series.

“We knew prior to the series the way England played over the last couple of years and the kind of approach they had to Test cricket. We were expecting them to come here with that aggression and play those kinds of shots.

“But credit goes to them for playing those shots and some of the shots Pope played were very brave, and playing those shots consistently can put the opposition under pressure,” he elaborated.

The former India pacer also admitted that England batters, especially Pope, was brave to take on Indian bowlers at the right time.

“It does happen as the batsmen start to access different areas. It is going to be a challenge. Pope accessed the square leg area and the reverse sweep as well. They took on the attack when it was really needed.

“Sometimes it happens because someone like him who plays these kinds of shots consistently does get the bowlers under pressure in terms of variations of the line. But we need to be patient with lines and hope to get a wicket,” said Mhambrey.

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