Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar batted like a dream on a surface that was tricky from the beginning and helped India to a lead of 89 runs at the stumps on Day 2. The day, however, was a classy reminder of what James Anderson means to a generation of cricket followers for his skill and audacity.
Leach the Panesar incarnate or one step ahead
Jack Leach has been a true revelation for England in this series. Even before, he was easily well ahead of every single spinner in the country but the fact that he has done it in a country where the likes of Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan suffered a nightmare, makes it all too cool. So how would England rate Leach’s performance in this series with some of the best showings they have done in India since the turn of the millennium?
Among all the overseas spinners to have taken at least 10 wickets in a series against India in India since January 2000, Imran Tahir, with 14 wickets in the 2015 series, tops the list with the best average with Steve O’ Keefe following suit with an average of 23.26 for the 2017 Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Graeme Swann, who took 20 wickets at 24.75 in the 2012 series, has the best showing so far for an Englishman and with 17 wickets at 26.70 (till lunch on Day 2), Jack Leach has a good enough chance to claim the record for himself and might even break Adil Rashid’s 23-wicket series in 2016.
That simply talks a lot about the Somerset spinner and his will to grow with every game after the mauling he received at the hands of Rishabh Pant in the opening encounter. He has been accurate, accounted for big fishes with astonishing regularity, and has been the biggest differentiator for the visitors. Monty Panesar had Swann at the other end but despite not having an able ally, Leach has prospered more than anyone else which makes this an extraordinary achievement for the Somerset southpaw. Let this be the beginning of a great career.
The ever-glowing aura of James Anderson
James Anderson is an ageless workhorse. Everything about his second coming as a pace bowler has an enduring charm attached to it that no numbers - make no mistake, that is terrific - can justify. For that, one needs to invest in Jimmy, get the factors right, and see him from the prism of his skills and there is no way you wouldn’t be drawn to the art.
His performance on the second day of the 4th Test in Ahmedabad was nothing short of sensational, for, at one point, Anderson had bowled 12 overs for 7 runs while picking two wickets. More than the result itself, the way Anderson ran in to constantly trouble the Indian batsmen was a story in itself. Either the ball was banged short or he got the SG ball to move away on a constant basis. As early as the 12th over of the innings, there was reverse on offer, which was not least aided by the pitch but also the monumental skill of Anderson.
Throughout the day with Stokes putting on a shift from the other end, bowling bouncers, and length balls on a constant basis, Anderson did the exact opposite. His pitch map suggests how he held the defensive length more often than not while letting the hardness of the pitch dictate the game. By cutting the yorker-length deliveries, he cut the leg-side angle and brought the LBW, and bowled to the picture. He had done that so many times on the unresponsive wickets in the past but the effort that he put in today belied all the expectations. Aging like … Umm.. bringing the cliche….a fine wine.
Washington’s grittiness takes the cake - as does Pant’s fire and brimstone
In Gabba, it was Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur who defied Australia in their wake and a special talent was born. Out of nowhere, not from the abyss of domestic cricket, Washington was given a chance to prove himself and boy, did he do what he was asked and then some more. It has been his batting impact, more than his bowling, that has convinced Virat Kohli to give him a longer rope and in Ahmedabad. And well, when the team needed his contribution, he delivered and how!
Knowing Rishabh Pant is best equipped to take on the bowlers to bridge the gap and take the lead, Washington batted with a kind of purpose that has defined him in his relatively-short four-match career. It established he knows how to grit in the middle and put a price on his wicket. Even when Ben Stokes was asking some tough questions, the boy from Chennai was calm and never let anything dictate the primary focus - to secure the lead from the team.
On the other hand, Pant was the complete opposite. After finding his feet, he waited for the bad balls to send shivers down the English side. His batting was a classical conundrum of what many English sides had suffered from such a wicket-keeper batsman in Australia and if this goes well, who knows, he might end up as one of the best batsmen in the world without even using the filter of wicket-keeper to his statistics.