India hold an 89-lead in the fourth Test, closing out Friday on 294 for seven thanks to a brilliant century from Rishabh Pant. It was an innings that wrestled back the control England were seized early on, primarily through James Anderson, Ben Stokes and Jack Leach. The trio picked up two wickets each after the hosts resumed on 24 for one.
But their consistency was not matched by Bess. The off-spinner’s 15 overs have so far cost 56 runs, going at an economy rate of four or more throughout the day before bringing it back down to 3.73.
Having missed the previous two Tests to work on his skills, he struggled to put that practice into action. His length was particularly wayward, serving up 12 full tosses. Since his Test debut in 2018, no spinner has bowled more than his 68 full tosses across his 14 appearances so far.
“He would have liked to have bowled a lot better today and liked to have given a lot more to the group, and it didn’t work out for him,” said Patel, ECB elite spin bowling coach who has been working with Bess out in India.
“They played him very well. I thought they sat on him and looked for balls to score off when they could.
“If I’m being honest, right now he’ll be quite down and tired about it. But the beauty of this game - and I mean it - is that there’s another opportunity to tomorrow, for him to wake up tomorrow with more to do is very important.”
It’s worth reiterating he remains a work in progress. A 23-year-old whose appearance in the first Test of the series, where he took four for 76 in the first innings as England won by 227 runs, was only his 50th first-class match, spread across five summers.
The decision to leave him out of the last two matches was feared to be a knock of his confidence. Bess, who has 32 Test victims at an average of 32, countered that pre-match saying he was ready to make an impact here. Aside from a couple of LBW decisions that were close to going his way, including Pant on 35, there was little joy. A reflection, Patel says, of further work that needs to be done.
“He needed the break if I am being honest with you,” said Patel. “I think he was tired at the end of that first Test, he was jaded. And it affected how the ball was bowled.
“He was really excited yesterday coming into this Test match. He was ready. If I am being honest with you, it’s no real one thing, it’s just the fact it didn’t work out for him today. If he had got that LBW just before tea, we would have seen a different Dominic Bess now.”
The slack in the bowling was picked up by Stokes, who sent down 20 overs on day two. It was an all-action performance with old and new ball, coming right after the allrounder’s 55 in England’s first effort of 205. All the more remarkable given he was struck down by the stomach bug that has been coursing through the squad.
“He’s almost like a Superman with this sort of stuff,” lauded Patel “He said he really does enjoy the tough battles: the way he batted yesterday, the way he even trained leading up to this game bare in mind he wasn’t feeling the greatest.
“He bowled a lot of overs today. He almost bowled the whole first session! He put a lot of energy into that and he got some crucial wickets for us along the way. He did exactly what a second seamer would do so it was fantastic to see bearing in mind where he has come from in those last three Test matches. He is pretty cooked as you can imagine but he is a warhorse and he loves it. He loves when it gets tough, he loves when it gets hot and tiring and that’s where he stands out the most. Hopefully we see the best of him again tomorrow.”
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