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England middle-order to blame for disappointing 2-1 scoreline against India? A look into statistics

February 20, 2024 09:40 AM

New Delhi: England is down by 2-1 during the ongoing series against India away from home and while the Three Lions have given Men in Blue a lot of headaches with their highly-attacking, positive and result-oriented 'Bazball' approach as compared to other recent visiting teams, it is the poor show by the middle-order that has separated both the sides in what has been a very closely-fought series in other aspects.

 

During the course of the series, the top-order consisting of openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett and number three Ollie Pope have frustrated India and its star bowlers Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Jasprit Bumrah. Indians have had to toil and earn their wickets after facing some serious counterattacks and hard-hitting stroke-making from the trio.

 

Duckett has been England's top run-scorer in the series and overall at number two. While he has disturbed the Indian bowlers with his brief but fiery cameos at the top, he has converted those into big scores too. In three matches, he has scored 288 runs at an average of 48.00 at a strike rate of 95.68, with one century and best score of 153.

 

Pope is the third-highest run-getter and played a masterclass knock of 196 in the first Hyderabad Test which England won by 28 runs, taking the hosts by a shock with his lengthy stay at crease and an array of unorthodox shots and sweeps. India could not win the Test despite a 190-run first innings lead and Pope took the game away from India single-handedly. In three matches, he scored 285 runs at an average of 47.5 and a strike rate of 65.66, with a century.

 

Crawley, under-fire just previous summer for a low-batting average and inconsistent run of scores, has been on a path of redemption since the last year's Ashes, where he top-scored for England with 480 runs in five matches at an average of 53.33.


The attacking right-hander posted two remarkable half-centuries in the second Test, which England lost by 106 runs. In three matches, he has scored 226 runs in six innings at an average of 37.66 and a strike rate of over 67, with two half-centuries and best score of 76.

 

However, the English middle-order consisting of stars like Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and skipper Ben Stokes has not clicked as expected. Root and Bairstow, the poster-boys of 'Bazball' across the fine run of Three Lions since mid 2022, have failed miserably.

 

Root has had a shockingly bad series, scoring 77 runs across six games at a poor average of 12.33, with the best score of 29. His strike rate of 49.04 suggests that despite the reverse scoop he has attempted so much on this tour, Indians have managed to put England's premier batter into a shell.

 

Bairstow, the big-armed right-hander willing to take on bowlers from ball one, has not set the cricketing world on fire either, not coming even remotely close to the 'Summer of Bairstow' he had back in 2022, scoring just 102 runs in six innings at an average of 17, with the best score of 37 at a strike rate of over 62.


Skipper Stokes has delivered in dosage, though not like the 'Crisis man' he is for Three Lions. India have not allowed Stokes to put out lengthy rescue acts, dousing the fire before it could get bigger. In three matches and six innings, he has scored 190 runs at an average of 31.66 and a strike rate of over 57, with a knock of 70 in first Test being his solitary fifty.


Wicketkeeper-batter Ben Foakes, England's best glovesman, often playing the supporting role in crucial, match-saving partnerships during the 'Bazball' era, has not delivered with the bat, scoring just 109 runs in six innings at an average of 18.16, with the best score of 36 and a strike rate of 41.92.


Often in this series, England have found themselves starting really well, with Duckett and Crawley putting on half-century stands four times out of five. The middle-order has let the Test matches slip from commanding positions and end it within less than five days. 'Bazball' it seems has backfired.


Will England be able to bounce back from a 434-run loss in the third Test at Rajkot and give Team India a much bigger fight, something worth sweating out? Only time will tell when the fourth Test starts at Ranchi from February 23, a must-win match for England to level the series.

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