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Akash Deep strikes as England lose five wickets in first session

Ben Stokes described the cracked, crumbly surface as ‘interesting’ and ‘like nothing I’ve ever seen before’ this week.

David Charlesworth
Friday 23 February 2024 06:22 GMT
Akash Deep, right, shone on debut (Ajit Solanki/AP)
Akash Deep, right, shone on debut (Ajit Solanki/AP) (AP)

England lost five wickets in an eventful first session of the fourth Test as India seamer Akash Deep took centre stage on a pitch in Ranchi already showing signs of uneven bounce.

How India would fare without the rested Jasprit Bumrah was answered emphatically by Deep, who bowled Zak Crawley with a no-ball then snared Ben Duckett and Ollie Pope within the space of three deliveries.

Crawley was dismissed for a run-a-ball 42 after Deep clipped the top of his off-stump and while Jonny Bairstow led a brief counter-attack, he was dismissed for 38 off 35 balls by Ravichandran Ashwin.

The tourists’ cause then worsened on the stroke of lunch when Ben Stokes was lbw to an ankle-high shooter from Ravindra Jadeja, the England captain walking off even before the umpire raised his finger as his side ended the session on 112 for five.

Stokes described a cracked, crumbly surface as “interesting” and “like nothing I’ve ever seen before” this week but he elected to bat first and his top-order was given a stiff working over.

Both Crawley and Duckett were beaten on the outside edge several times by Deep and Mohammed Siraj, as England made a tentative start just a few days after falling 2-1 behind the series following a heavy defeat in Rajkot last week.

Crawley’s off-stump was sent cartwheeling but he was called back after Deep had overstepped the front line. Having taken just four off his first 16 balls, he took 28 off his next 16 after driving and twice clipping for three successive fours before a monstrous six off Siraj.

India turned to Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm spin in the ninth over but they persisted with the probing Deep, who snared Duckett for 11 with a good length delivery which nipped away a fraction and grazed the outside edge.

Ollie Pope’s attempt to negate the movement was unsuccessful as he lasted two balls. Despite getting nearly three metres out in front he was rapped on the pads by Deep and India successfully reviewed the not out decision.

Deep ended a lively first hour by castling Crawley again – a near-identical delivery to his no-ball earlier – but this time, there was no reprieve for the England opener.

The out-of-form Bairstow, averaging 17 in this series, was purposeful and especially fluent against Siraj, late-cutting the seamer for four then crunching two more boundaries in his next over. When Bairstow slog swept Ravichandran Ashwin for six, it appeared it would be the Yorkshireman’s day.

However, Ashwin continued round the wicket and tempted Bairstow into another slog sweep which he missed. Umpire Rod Tucker was unmoved by India’s lbw appeal but another review vindicated the hosts.

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