Berliner Tageblatt - England back underfire Root, Bairstow to keep India series alive

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England back underfire Root, Bairstow to keep India series alive
England back underfire Root, Bairstow to keep India series alive / Photo: © AFP

England back underfire Root, Bairstow to keep India series alive

England are blocking out all "external noise" to help Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow hit form and keep the series alive against India in Friday's fourth Test in Ranchi.

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After England slumped to their second-worst defeat since 1934 in terms of runs in the third Test, Ben Stokes' side are 2-1 down and must win or draw to avoid losing the series with a game to spare.

England's attacking "Bazball" brand of cricket came under fire after the dismal 434-run Rajkot defeat, with the lack of runs for Root and Bairstow highlighted.

Bairstow, whose rapid scoring in the middle order has been a key to England's attacking play, has 102 runs from six innings with a highest of 37.

"I'm not blind but he's done so well for us (in the past) and he's had such an impactful career," England coach Brendon McCullum said of Bairstow, who will win his 99th cap in Ranchi.

"We've got to keep on giving him confidence and block out a lot of the external noise and keep him really present and focused on what he's trying to achieve, and I'm sure Jonny will come good."

Root's reverse scoop dismissal off Jasprit Bumrah on the third morning triggered a collapse from a strong position at 224-2 to 319 all out, handing India a crucial 126-run first-innings lead.

Root, who has scored 11,493 runs in 138 Tests with 30 centuries, made just seven runs as England imploded to 122 all out in the second innings and never remotely threatened their 557 victory target.

"It's Joe Root, crikey," said McCullum as he batted away criticism of the former captain's lean spell.

"I mean, seriously? The law of averages suggests he'll fill his boots in the next two."

All-rounder Stokes, who said he would play purely as a batsman in this series after recovering from knee surgery, could bowl in Ranchi in a badly needed boost for England.

"There's definitely a chance," vice-captain Ollie Pope told reporters on Wednesday.

"He's not confirmed it even in the changing room, so we will see. He bowled at the batters today. See how he pulls up, and if that's good, hopefully we will see him with the ball in hand in the game."

- 'Put India under pressure' -

England have won 14 out of 21 Tests since Stokes and McCullum took the reins in 2022.

But since winning the first India Test in Hyderabad, Stokes has now lost back-to-back Tests for only the second time as captain.

Australia won at Edgbaston and Lord's in the Ashes last year, but on that occasion England fought back to draw the series 2-2.

"We'll turn the page and go quids-in again trying to put India under pressure," said a defiant McCullum.

"Hopefully in seven or eight days we'll be talking about how exciting it is to be heading into a decider."

Rohit Sharma's India will rest pace spearhead Bumrah, the only seamer on either side to play in all three Tests so far, as India look to seal the series, but should otherwise have an unchanged side.

Batsman KL Rahul will miss his third straight Test with an injury he picked in the opener. Batting great Virat Kohli has sat out the series and announced the birth of his second child on Tuesday.

Opener Yashasvi Jaiswal, 22, has dominated the series batting with two double centuries and 545 runs. England's Ben Duckett is next best on 288.

Sarfaraz Khan made 62 and 68 not out in an impressive debut and was part of a destructive 172-run stand with Jaiswal in India's second innings.

"When seniors like Virat or Bumrah are not there then everyone wants to make the best of the opportunity," batsman Shubman Gill told reporters.

Jaiswal needs 139 in his next innings to become the fourth-quickest batsman in history to 1,000 Test runs, and the fastest in 75 years.