It’s probably not a coincidence that Kuldeep Yadav got to bowl as early as the fourth over, ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel. And more importantly, just two overs to go for lunch. An almost new ball with a prominent seam allows for a better grip and more consistent bounce. For Rohit Sharma, it was like a tester of things to come, an early indication of how England would want to play out Yadav.
But for one ball, Zak Crawley looked solid throughout that over. The ball in focus though was a ripper, pitching full and catching a thick edge as the England opener pressed forward to block. “It’s a little bit different, facing left-arm leg spin,” said Crawley, who top scored with 76 in England’s first innings, after the close of play. “He’s got the googly as well, the slider, he’s got all of those variations that I suppose Ashwin’s got too. But it was a different angle and he bowled well, which made it a new challenge.”
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With Ravindra Jadeja out injured and Axar Patel not giving a great account of himself at Hyderabad, Sharma could not be faulted for relying more on Yadav. He didn’t disappoint. Playing his first Test since December 2022 — he had a match haul of eight wickets at Chattogram — Yadav was on the money most of the time even though he occasionally leaked runs. But since this is England who know no other way to bat but attack, Yadav’s economy of 4.17 was almost par for the course, given Ashwin’s was 5.08 and Patel’s 6. He bowled the most overs – 17-1-71-3 – complementing Jasprit Bumrah’s six-wicket haul.
Tantalizing, however, was the range Yadav displayed throughout the 17 overs he bowled. There was flight and dip, and although some of the flatter deliveries ended as half-trackers, Yadav kept mixing up his bowling really well to keep England batters guessing. You could sense that in Ben Duckett’s dismissal just after lunch.
Flighting the ball and getting it to dip late, Yadav ensured Duckett could not get to the pitch of the ball, which in turn forced the England opener to prod at it tentatively. The ball spun sharply and took the shoulder edge to balloon to Rajat Patidar at silly point, giving India the break they so wanted while Crawley threatened to run away with the momentum.
With Sharma liberally using Yadav in tandem with the other spinners as well as Bumrah, England’s batters were under the pump to attack him. Jonny Bairstow once cut him for four but Yadav bounced back with a mix of straighter and flighted deliveries. Yadav almost got Stokes in the 35th over when he failed to keep down a sweep, but the top-edge landed safely.
Ben Foakes wasn’t as lucky though, falling to a lack of turn in a tossed-up ball that he tried to stay inside, finding his off-stump disturbed. That Rehan Ahmed couldn’t pull a rank long hop past Shubman Gill at midwicket was just the bit of luck India needed on a day Ashwin went wicketless for only the fifth time in an innings at home where the opponents were all out.
At the end though, it built up to be exactly the sort of day Yadav needed after being kept away from Test cricket for over a year.
Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years’ experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times….view detail