After three tough days for the batters, day four in Nottingham provided much more assistance to the batsmen with the track relatively being flat for the major part of the day. England, who trailed by 95 at the beginning of the innings, set India 209 to win on the back of skipper Joe Root’s 109.
Mohammed Siraj and the constant urge for development
Having made his Test debut only in 2020, at the age of 26, there was a need for Mohammed Siraj to show his worth and separate himself from the rest of the competition. While his attitude and the delivery away from the left-hander earned him praise in Australia, his brilliant seam movement in India against England followed up the initial burst. So when Ishant Sharma was ruled out of the first Test, the focus was on the 27-year-old to live upto the expectations. While he picked up the one wicket in the first innings, on the back of a brilliant seam movement, he had to manufacture his luck in the second.
That’s exactly where the variations came into play, following the footsteps of James Anderson, who was seen bowling a lot of wobbly seams and the cross seamed deliveries against the Indian batters. Siraj bowled the wobble seam, which saw a prodigious 0.9-degree movement away from the left-handed Rory Burns, catching him by surprise. Immediately after that wicket, the right-arm seamer attempted a three-quarter seam delivery against the English skipper Joe Root, which also caught him by complete surprise. Not only was he deadly accurate, he also bowled 66% of his deliveries on a good-length, a known recipe that works in England.
While there was no doubt on Siraj’s abilities as a bowler, the way he is constantly upgrading himself over the course makes him one of the hottest bowlers in the country for all conditions. With India set to play in South Africa away from home, there is a strong chance that Siraj could feature in all of them.
Ravindra Jadeja needs to keep scoring runs to keep his place
If there was ever a comparison between Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, Jadeja probably would be the first to admit Ashwin’s influence on the proceedings. However, unfortunately, the conditions in England don’t allow for India to play with two spinners, which has made it an extremely tough proposition for India. Forced by the situation, the management had to make a choice and they did make the right one, considering how Nottingham was notoriously known for assisting pacers. And it was rewarded well in the second innings when Jadeja scored the 86-ball 56.
While he might have been under-utilised in both the innings by the skipper Virat Kohli, Jadeja didn’t quite take the opportunity with both hands. There was an erring pattern of no-balls, wide and short deliveries and an unreal lack of consistency, in both the innings, something that doesn’t go toe-to-toe with Jadeja. In the second innings, he began well against Dominic Sibley before delivering too many deliveries that were tossed away to the boundary by the English skipper. For Jadeja to keep his place in the Indian side, he needs to continue to score runs, for otherwise there is a strong possibility of Ashwin making a return.
Joe Root's acceleration brings the game back in England's favour
At 46/2 after the 17th over, England were in not just trouble but big trouble, considering how they had performed in the first innings of the Test. However, England skipper Joe Root had other ideas, which ultimately brought us to the position we are at the end of the day. Coming in at No.4, Root counter-attacked, making his intent clear by smashing a boundary off Mohammed Siraj's bowling on his third ball. Even though Jasprit Bumrah troubled the English skipper, Root never was hesitant in his plans, as he not only had one eye on the scoreboard but also on the scoring rate. England were in deep trouble, all thanks to their first innings batting approach. Root was well aware that it was the best batting surface that they could get in Nottingham, one of the notorious surfaces in the country.
As Cricviz noted, day four's pitch had a rating of 5.1, which was the most batting friendly in the entire contest. From his first seven full deliveries, the English skipper had scored 18 runs, taking the utmost risk with the well-deserved reward. Incidentally, Root also went past his best run tally in a Test at home since 2018, in the most aggressive of fashions, with 23% of his shots early on being false-shots. It was also the first time that the English skipper had passed 50 in both the innings of the Test since the 2017 Headingley Test against West Indies.
Even though Sibley employed a slower approach, Root ensured that the attacking approach from the other end didn't stop, with boundaries all over the ground. Anything outside the off-stump or anything full, the 30-year-old dominated and dominated it well. His 50 came off 68 deliveries and since then, the partnership with Jonny Bairstow and Daniel Lawrence kept the run-rate racing, not ticking. At the end of the 60th over, England were racing at a run rate of 3.133, which later increased to 3.34 as the hosts kept the game in the fine balance after India were headlining the contest on the first three days.