Welcome to day one of our live report of the fourth India-England Test from Ahmedabad. Join us for updates, analysis and colour. You can find our traditional ball-by-ball commentary here
*Most recent entry will appear at the top, please refresh your page for the latest updates. All times are local
India 24 for 1 (Sharma 8*, Pujara 15*) trail England 205 (Stokes 55, Lawrence 46, Patel 4-68) by 181 runs
England fought the conditions, a well-tuned India attack, and the internal momentum of their own fading batting fortunes to try and stay in contention on the first day of the fourth Test in Ahmedabad. The best that could be said of England’s total of 205 was that it was more than they had achieved across two innings on the same ground last week; the worst, that there is no team more adept than India at making such hard graft look inadequate.
Having won the toss and chosen to bat, there was no doubt that England had left runs on the table. Only Ben Stokes managed to fashion a half-century, and the highest partnership of the innings was 48. Since piling up 578 in benign conditions at the outset of the series in Chennai, England’s batsmen have yet to produce another fifty stand.
Arguably things could have been worse. With Axar Patel continuing his fine debut series by claiming four more wickets – taking his tally to 22 at 10.81 – and Joe Root falling cheaply to the bristling Mohammed Siraj early in the day, England’s middle and lower order, strengthened by the presence of the recalled Dan Lawrence at No. 7, staved off complete collapse. James Anderson then struck with his third ball, Shubman Gill trapped lbw, to ensure that India had to plot a watchful course through to the close.
4.40pm: Immaculate Anderson
Hard to fault Anderson’s new-ball spell, with figures of 5-5-0-1. It’s been a typically masterful effort, with perfect lines in the off-stump channel and good lengths.
It’s been a slightly less tidy start for Jack Leach, with Cheteshwar Pujara – whom he has dismissed three times in the series – using his feet to throw him off his plans, but Leach will not be overly worried just yet.
Still time to get these in today. Don’t forget that pesky hashtag: https://t.co/4klx2cIWdi
— George Dobell (@GeorgeDobell1) March 4, 2021
4.30pm: Turning to spin
Given the XI they have picked, England didn’t have much choice but to go to spin early – and here’s Jack Leach on for a bowl in the sixth over. He has had the most success for England against Rohit, with four dismissals in the series, so this could be an intriguing battle before the close.
Meanwhile, no problems with social distancing in this stand:
Good to see #INDvENG shots back on Getty and AP.
Love this one in particular.
Surjeet Yadav/Getty | Fourth Test | Day 1 pic.twitter.com/7FWASU1QlM
— Annesha Ghosh (@ghosh_annesha) March 4, 2021
4.10pm: Gilly golly gone!
England get the perfect start in defence of a small total, as James Anderson wins an lbw appeal in his first over. Shubman Gill didn’t want to drag himself away, but the delivery was clipping leg stump according to ball-tracking, and that’s enough to back up Virender Sharma’s on-field call. The key wicket this evening will undoubtedly be the man at the other end, though – as Karthik wrote during the build-up, Rohit Sharma has been in imperious form against the quicks, scoring his runs at a strike rate of 80.98 to help produce match-defining innings at Motera and Chepauk.
Stokes is fit enough, meanwhile, to take the new ball (for the first time in Tests)… and he’s slashed through gully by Rohit for the first runs of the innings. Game on.
3.50pm: Red rover
Ashwin bags Leach, denying his team-mate a five-wicket haul, and meaning England have been turned over for 205 – their second-highest score of the series, although that’s not saying a great deal. Anderson’s reverse-sweep has been the high point for them since tea. Still time in the day for India to face 10-12 overs before the close.
England, meanwhile, have confirmed that Jofra Archer missed this match with the same elbow problem that kept him out of the second Test. And Ben Stokes, England’s second seamer in this game, has an “upset stomach”, although I think I saw him patrolling the boundary ready to go out on to the field for India’s innings.
200! They did it.#INDvENG
— Andrew McGlashan (@andymcg_cricket) March 4, 2021
3.35pm: Patel eyes another five-for
Two in an over for Axar Patel, and England are nine down. Lawrence had played a few nice shots but, in sight of a half-century, the eyes lit up and he was stumped by a distance; Dom Bess then played completely the wrong line to be lbw for 3, despite confidently signalling for a review. Can Nos. 10 and 11, Jack Leach and James Anderson, eke England past 200?
3.30pm: India grip tightens
With India’s spinners starting to size up the England tail, time for a chat with Karthik Krishnaswamy about what the home side have done right today.
So, KK. This doesn’t look like a 112, 145, 81 sort of pitch… and India lost the toss once again. But with that
Pope Foakes wicket, they seem to have a strong grip on the innings?
Yup. It’s been brilliantly controlled bowling through the day. This is a better representation of the typical home performance from India over recent years than the last two Tests. They played the waiting game quite a bit, which they hadn’t had to do in the second and third Tests. So there were a lot of in-out fields, for example.
R Ashwin has just popped up with a couple of wickets, but the tone early on was set by two new boys, in Axar Patel (with whom England are well acquainted) and Mohammed Siraj…
I actually thought India would go with Umesh Yadav over Siraj, but as you can see, there’s not a whole lot to choose between most of their pace options.
Pretty impressive from the two of them, actually, considering it’s been a day of constriction rather than running through the opposition. And between them they’ve played less than 10 Tests? England have batted pretty well, for most part. Stokes was playing a really good innings and could have taken England to a decent position had he stayed in another half an hour or so.
But there’s been enough in this pitch for India’s bowlers, and they’ve recognised it and hammered away on a good length. And they’ve had some luck go their way too…
Yes, Stokes seemed to have found some form, seeing off Ashwin… only for Washington Sundar to pop up with a wicket. But this doesn’t look like such a spinning pitch (despite England only picking one frontline seamer), and India will have eyes on a lot more than 200-ish, right?
I don’t think it’s as flat as some people are making it out to be, though. If England can get to 250, they could still be in it, just about hanging on. How Dom Bess bowls will be a big question. Ashwin’s gotten a few to really rip.
And there’s something in it for the fast bowlers too, and England have thr… oh, hang on. What’s the most overs Ben Stokes has bowled in an innings away from home?
He’s done some hard yakka, but not much recently (and only 15 overs in this series to date). Picking the extra batsman seemed an oddly defensive move, though if Lawrence can get them up to that 250-mark you mention, I guess they’ll say it’s paid off.
Lawrence charges down the pitch against Axar to be stumped for 46.
3.10pm: And again…
The Indian spinners are bloody good!
— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) March 4, 2021
Another “crash of Ash”, to abuse a Benaud-ism, and India have their seventh wicket of the day. Ben Foakes has been among England’s better batsmen in tough conditions in Chennai and Ahmedabad, but he is lured into a furtive prod early in his innings here, with Ajinkya Rahane making no mistake at slip. England still some way shy of reaching 200, as Dom Bess heads out to the middle.
2.55pm: Ashwin chips in
First wicket of the Test for Ashwin, and again it saws off England short of a fifty partnership. Ollie Pope will feel he’s a bit unlucky here, but again the dismissal came as part of a skilful set-up from India’s premier spinner. Three balls in succession caused him bother: the first spinning sharply to hit the front pad as Pope lunged forward, the next going on with the arm past the outside edge. With Pope now looking to come down in response, Ashwin went a bit quicker and straight, and struck pay dirt with a catch at short leg – though not in the usual fashion, as Pope inside-edged on to his back knee flap, for Shubman Gill to snap up the chance.
At the other end, Dan Lawrence has produced a few eye-catching shots, but there’s a lot of work ahead for him, Ben Foakes and the tail to try and get England up to a competitive total.
See Lawrence has activated make Test batting look easy mode. Nice.
— Jon Hotten (@theoldbatsman) March 4, 2021
2.45pm: Hosts on top?
India open up with the bouncy, piratical Mohammed Siraj and languid YouTuber R Ashwin as their combination after tea. Here’s what the Match Day boys thought of proceedings during that previous session.
England 144 for 5 (Pope 21*, Lawrence 15*) vs India
India claimed two more wickets during a cagey second session, as England struggled to capitalise on winning the toss for the second week in a row in Ahmedabad. Ben Stokes struck a battling half-century but his team reached tea on an anaemic-looking 144 for 5.
England have not managed a fifty partnership since the first innings of the first Test in Chennai, so parlous has their batting been, and two stands in the 40s featuring Stokes could not quite get them out of that rut. Mohammed Siraj continued a lively return to the Test XI by trapping Jonny Bairstow lbw shortly after lunch – the decision backed up by DRS despite Bairstow’s quizzical look – and Stokes was also leg-before to Washington Sundar, having recorded his second fifty of the series.
Stokes had appeared to be finding a productive groove, slog-sweeping Sundar for six and reversing Axar Patel to bring up his half-century. But he was pinned once again by offspin, playing for turn that didn’t materialise, and it was left to Ollie Pope and Dan Lawrence, back at No. 7 to lengthen the batting order, to see England to tea.
Reminder that England haven’t passed 200 since the first innings in Chennai, and they’re looking in trouble again here. This pitch, meanwhile, seems much friendlier if you’ve got an idea of how to bat on it. Chances of Virat Kohli ending his wait for a Test hundred in this match?
1.38pm: Stokes slopes off!
England won’t be building around Ben Stokes any longer…! He’s gone to the offspinner again, although the identity at least is different on this occasion. Washington Sundar was the bowler to slide one on and hit the back pad, with Stokes looking to play for spin. India claim a fifth wicket of the day, well on top of proceedings. Time for England’s extra batting depth, with Dan Lawrence coming out at No. 7, to come to the fore.
1.30pm: Stokes smokes
Half-century for Ben Stokes, his second of the series. He started a little scratchily against the skiddy pace of Siraj, and bided his time for long periods against Ashwin – aside from pumping one ball for six over long-off, and advancing to whip four through midwicket. Those moments of calculated aggression were more like the trademark Stokes, and he unfurled a few more shots from his catalogue as the afternoon wore on, slog-sweeping Washington Sundar for six before going to fifty with a reverse-swept four off Patel. It’s his first significant score since scoring 82 in the Chennai opener and, with Pope bedding in calmly, something for England to build around.
1.15pm: Steady as she goes
Ben Stokes has been tremendous so far. But it’s nowhere near enough at the moment, in the conditions on the first day. Needs to make it count. #INDvENG
— Anand Vasu (@anandvasu) March 4, 2021
England raise three figures with a late cut from Pope off Patel, and that is drinks in Ahmedabad. Whisper it, but we might have a slightly more normal Test on our hands… although normal is not a word to bandy around at the moment, and sadly news coming out of Pakistan is that the PSL has been postponed after a spate of Covid-19 positives at the tournament.
1.05pm: England in need of some magic…
Straight after finishing his eighth over (all but seven balls of which were delivered to Stokes), Ashwin is removed from the attack and replaced by Axar Patel. So you can ignore me. Anyway, Stokes is beginning to look in tune here, weathering the spell from his nemesis and then pinging a sublime on-drive against Mohammed Siraj for four. Which seems a good time to point you in the direction of George Dobell’s ‘I was there’ feature on Mumbai 2012 and a Kevin Pietersen epic, which is perhaps the definitive tale of overcoming a weakness (in this case, left-arm spin in the shape of Pragyan Ohja) in order to thrive. Andy Flower, Jonathan Trott, Gautam Gambhir all contribute their memories, alongside KP himself. Enjoy.
12.50pm: Ashwin eyes his quarry
R Ashwin is settling into a lengthy spell now, as you’d expect with these two batsmen at the crease. Stokes, as mentioned previously, has had perennial problems against Ashwin, and has played out 38 dot balls from 41 faced; while Ollie Pope has fallen to the offie three times in the series so far. As my colleague Karthik Krishnaswamy wrote, Ashwin’s double foxing of Pope with the pink ball last week was a thing of beauty.
12.25pm: Siraj surges through
England’s wait for a first 50-partnership since the first innings of the first Test in Chennai goes on… India had two umpire’s call reviews from successive deliveries, but importantly in the latter case, Nitin Menon’s finger had gone up in response to an appeal from Mohammed Siraj against Jonny Bairstow. The batsman was perplexed, perhaps wondering if he had been given out caught behind, given the ball kissed his back leg and cleared the stumps; but ball-tracking had it clipping the bails, and that’s enough to end Bairstow’s association with Stokes on 48. Siraj having an excellent day.
England 74 for 3 (Bairstow 28*, Stokes 24*) vs India
An unbroken partnership between Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes settled England after they had won the toss and chosen to bat in the fourth and final Test of the series. Three early wickets for India had hinted at further carnage, with the tourists having failed to reach 200 in their last five innings.
Once again, Axar Patel was the tormentor, striking with his second ball of the match and twice in his first two overs, as England slipped to 15 for 2. Dom Sibley was forewarned by not forearmed against Patel’s arm ball, as he played the wrong line and deflected an inside edge on to his leg bail, then Zak Crawley fell tamely, chipping to mid-off when trying to come down the track.
When Joe Root was pinned lbw by Mohammed Siraj from the first ball after drinks, England looked to be in a tailspin once again. But Bairstow and Stokes played a few shots and added 44 together on a comparatively docile surface. Stokes launching R Ashwin for six in his first over after a belated introduction as India’s seamers bowled more than half the overs before lunch.
11.15am: Hello… Massive!
Stokes had faced 24 balls by the time of Ashwin’s introduction, and he promptly greeted him by pumping his 26th for six over long-off! Ashwin has done for Stokes 11 times in Tests, but it seems the batsman is keen to get his retaliation in first. No great signs of spin from the surface, with India’s seamers both getting second spells this morning.
11.05am: Making a stand
After the early wobbles, England’s fourth-wicket pair have managed to negotiate a period of safe passage. Siraj has arguably been India’s best bowler this morning, despite Patel’s continued success in his debut series, and he had Ben Stokes ruffled – to the point that Virat Kohli decided to join the conversation, too. The umpires also stepped in, but things seemed cordial enough. Stokes added a muscled pull to a couple of fours edged through the cordon off Siraj, and with Jonny Bairstow looking a lot more settled after his pair in the last Test, England will be hoping for a partnership from two of their most-experienced batsmen. For India, R Ashwin is lurking…
10.35am: Root rumbled by pace
First ball after drinks, and Mohammed Siraj celebrates his return to the side by pinning Joe Root plumb lbw! Perfect length straight up, jags back at a sedentary England captain to rap him on both pads in front of middle and off – and there’s no review, Root knew he hadn’t gone anywhere. No real demons in the pitch so far, but plenty in English heads, it seems.
The way both the England openers got out this morning,it’s fair to say the scars from the last two matches are still fresh in their minds. #INDvsENG
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) March 4, 2021
10.15am: Zak attack falls flat
It’s almost as if England don’t care about Australia’s spot in the World Test Championship final #INDvENG
— Dan Liebke (@LiebCricket) March 4, 2021
Two in two overs for Patel, as Zak Crawley’s not-going-to-die-wondering approach fails to come off! Similar to Crawley’s dismissal right at the very start of England’s tour in Sri Lanka, when he hit Lasith Embuldeniya to mid-off; after stroking four down the ground a few balls earlier, this time he couldn’t get to the pitch and spooned a simple catch to Siraj, who barely had to move. That means Crawley is closing in on a full house against left-arm spin, having fallen three times to Patel in this series, and four out of four to Embuldeniya in Galle.
10am: Axar on, Dom off
Spin into the mix for the sixth over, and quickly England have to get into Indiana Jones mode. Sure enough, it takes just two balls for Axar Patel to strike and take his Test match bowling average below nine… and again it’s the tricksy non-turner that does the damage, as Dom Sibley plays forward looking for spin, but only succeeds in deflecting an inside edge on to his leg bail. Couldn’t even say the ball before had spooked him by ragging big, as Sibley had smothered it – but I suppose the horse has already bolted when it comes to England’s mentality against spin. Another false start from the openers, who have just one partnership above 17 from 11 innings this winter.
So, is it going to be bunsen burner, nice little earner for Virat Kohli and his side once again? You couldn’t blame them for taking that route, given the way England’s batting has crumbled since making 578 in the very first outing of the series – and all suggestions before the start here were that Motera would dust up nicely with a red ball, as it did for the pink (albeit that so many dismissals in the third Test came from non-turning deliveries). Anyway, for now it’s a classical diet of new-ball seam, India starting off with Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Siraj in harness; Ishant snaked one into Zak Crawley’s front pad in the opening over, but DRS showed it to be going over the top. To whet the appetite for what’s to come, I’ll leave you with this little chat between Sanjay Manjrekar and Raunak Kapoor on the subject of turning pitches in India.
The state of play: India need only to avoid defeat to secure their spot in the World Test Championship final. England, meanwhile, can only play the role of party poopers, but they’ll have Australia – the team that would benefit from an India defeat – barracking for them. Beyond the added WTC context, England are aiming to become only the fourth team since 1984 to win two Tests in a series in India.
9.05am: England win toss and bat
Two changes for England – they’ve left out Archer and Broad, Bess and Lawrence come in
For India, Siraj replaces Bumrah
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) March 4, 2021
G’day and welcome to our rolling report of the fourth Test. It’s crunch time in the race for World Test Championship qualification, and the last stop on England’s six-match subcontinental odyssey… and Joe Root has won his third toss of the series. What does that mean for the next
five four few days? The tourists have made a couple of changes, altering the balance of their side by bringing in batsman Dan Lawrence and spinner Dom Bess, with seamers Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad dropping out. India, having already released Jasprit Bumrah, have included Mohammed Siraj in his place. Of course, were this a report from the red carpet at an awards show, everyone would be dying for a word with the pitch. “Do you listen to the critics? How are you holding together? Can you top last week’s performance?” Not long now until we find out just how many booby traps have been installed for the second game in Ahmedabad.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.