AHMEDABAD, INDIA (AP) — England’s top-order batsmen struggled against India’s pace and spin before a fighting half century by Ben Stokes rallied the visitors to 144-5 at tea on day one of the fourth and final test yesterday.
Stokes looked to dominate India’s spin threat of Axar Patel (2-48) and Ravichandran Ashwin by scoring 55 off 121 balls, but fell leg before wicket to an arm ball off third spinner Washington Sundar.
Ollie Pope was unbeaten on 21 and Dan Lawrence was not out on 15 as England lost two vital wickets of Stokes and Jonny Bairstow (28) in the middle session.
Bairstow revived England’s yet another top-order collapse with a 48-run stand with Stokes before fast bowler Mohammed Siraj (2-34) had him lbw soon after lunch break.
Stokes looked comfortable against spinners, welcoming Ashwin with a straight six and reached his half century with an authoritative reverse swept boundary against Patel before he was undone by Sundar, who bowled around the wicket to the lefthander.
Earlier, England lost both openers within the first two overs after captain Joe Root won the toss and opted to bat in a test to determine which team competes against New Zealand in the World Test Championship final.
India fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah has gone on leave due to personal reasons and was replaced by Siraj. England made two changes with Dan Lawrence and Dom Bess coming in for Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer.
With India leading the series 2-1, a win or a draw for the home team will secure the series and a place in the test championship final.
A win for England would seriously complicate matters for the hosts and help Australia; India needs a series win to advance to the final and prevent a final between New Zealand and Australia.
England opened the four-test series with a 227-run victory. India rallied to level it in Chennai with a 317-run victory and won the third third test by 10 wickets in two days on a spin-friendly wicket at Ahmedabad.
India has not lost two tests in a home series since 2012, when England won.