Rohit, Gill tons roll England

Day two from Dharamsala

Rohit, Gill tons roll England
Shubman Gill settling in at number 3 has been one of the highlights of the series for India

Ben Stokes bowled. In fact, Ben Stokes bowled Rohit Sharma, with his first comeback ball since July. The man only plays for the narrative. Talking about that, remember when Shubman Gill wasn’t any good at Tests, what was that all about? Today his biggest problem was arguing with Jimmy Anderson on the way to his hundred, until the old man foxed him out. No one cared though because him and Rohit had their hundred.

Devdutt Padikkal then made his debut and placed the ball through the offside while Sarfaraz Khan knocked up another 50. India just completely dominated, but for one last time, England would not be killed. Just keeping themselves within touching distance of, well, nothing more than whispers of another win.

But England really is the cockroach of modern Tests, a sexy fun cockroach. Maybe that is the wrong animal. They are kind of like a scorpion, they’re always in with a chance, because they have a big sting. But still, they are a scorpion, you could just step over them too. Anyway, they still can’t get the tail out, so who knows how many England will need to even make India bat again. 

Rohit Sharma's rise as a Test opener

Rohit Sharma, Usman Khawaja, and Dimuth Karunaratne have been in the top tier of Test opening in the last five years. The fact that Rohit and Khawaja have opened the innings that well, despite not opening the batting traditionally, makes it even more spectacular.

Rohit Sharma did not have a poor record in the middle order either - he was slightly above-par. However, it is worth noting that he played on a lot more batting-friendly surfaces back then. He is averaging nearly 1.5 times the rest of the top six batters in the games he has played as an opener, which is a commendable feat.

Rohit Sharma was a dominant force in India in the middle order, but he was not a regular feature in the Test team. Also, he failed to get going on the road. He has now seen a significant improvement on that front. The Indian skipper still averages over 50 in India, despite the pitches in 2021-23.

Not only has Rohit consistently gotten runs against almost every team, but he has also done it at a good strike rate. He is able to put the pressure back on the opposition. Another fascinating thing is his conversion rate after getting to fifty.

Rohit Sharma in home Tests since 2019 (Picture Credit - Statsguru)

Rohit has an outstanding record against pace both home & away, in an era where the wobble ball has been prominent. Playing spin in Asia does not always translate the same way outside it, as the ball bounces a lot more in some places.

He was dismissed by Nathan Lyon a couple of times while trying to take him on.

Picture Credits - ESPNCricinfo

Rohit Sharma's record from six Tests in England is superb. He does have a low average in Australia and South Africa. However, he has played only two Tests each in both countries. Even his huge average in West Indies is from just two matches.

It will be interesting to see how he fares in the upcoming Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2024/25, because Australia is a country which should suit his natural style of play. He did a good job to play out the new ball the last time, but could not cash in and make a big score in the four innings he played.

He averages 41% more than the rest of the top six batters in England, and 64% in India. Both him and Rishabh Pant have been particularly good on wickets that have been quite helpful for the spinners.

Rohit Sharma was 32 when he started opening the batting for India in Test cricket. The fact that he was able to crack Tests after that age, while also being among the best in ODIs deserves a lot of credit.

In this innings, he controlled the game really well and went after England early on to put some pressure back on them.

Is this Shubman Gill's 'coming of age' series?

His performances in this series actually represent what we know he is capable of in white ball cricket. He probably got trapped on a couple of tricky wickets in India early on, which did not help his case against spin. There was nothing in his batting that suggested he won't make runs in this format.

Gill was slightly worse than the rest of the Indian batters against spin before this series. However, he has completely turned that around now.

The Indian batters have actually played the English seamers quite well in this series. Going by the numbers, it seems like the improvement in his average against pace seems to be more because of England's bowling, while he has clearly improved against spin.

This was before today. He averaged 55 in ODIs and 23 in Tests against deliveries above 88+ mph. If he had a real problem against pace, it should have reflected in ODIs too. This is probably just dumb luck; you watch him play in this match and you would think there's absolutely no issue here.

He had a tough time against Anderson till 2022, and even earlier in the series. Although he got out to him today, he's looked much better against him in the last few games.

This was a major narrative around Gill's batting. Since the third innings hundred at Vizag, he's looked a lot better. He has scores of 104, 4, 91, 38, 52* & 110.

Devdutt Padikkal - Scouting report

“Both feet in the crease” was what England yelled when Devdutt Padikkal entered the wicket. When he edged a ball off the front foot from Anderson, you could see that while his weight was forward, his front foot was in the crease line. That is not a normal way to bat. 

But it makes even less sense for someone like him, because he is tall. And unlike Zak Crawley who uses his height all the time, Paddikal is really hitting the ball under his nose. He might as well be Duckett or Sarfaraz’s height. 

He gets caught slightly less than other players. However, the amount of times he gets bowled in first-class cricket is higher than the average top four batter in Test cricket. I'd be more worried if his LBW percentage was also higher. He stays leg side of the ball and plays through the off side, a bit like Moeen Ali who was another tall player.

Padikkal is 23, and he has not exactly set the world on fire yet. I think his record says that he has not played a lot of first-class cricket. There were times when he did not look as sure when compared to Jaiswal or Sarfaraz when we saw them early in their careers. They came in with high averages, and were sure of their game.

Padikkal made four hundreds this year in first-class cricket. With him, they know the talent is there and they're waiting for it to assemble. They have picked him at a good age and given him a chance. But he was still a replacement for Patidar, who was also a replacement pick in the absence of Kohli and Rahul. I like the way he went about his innings, but as I said there are things to look at going forward.

This was his third innings batting outside the top three in first-class cricket. Generally you pick batters who play in the top four in first-class cricket, because those are the hardest positions. That means you are tested against the hard ball and the better bowlers. Again, we have to see a player having to learn a new position on the fly. It was not a particularly high-pressure innings, though he handled it pretty well after the two quick wickets.

Manufacturing wickets

England have been good at manufacturing wickets in this series, but not as great as other places where the bouncer can be bowled more. Though they tried that here, and it didn’t work. Before Bazball, England’s main choice of manufacturing wickets was Ben Stokes.

He got Rohit off the first delivery that he bowled. He is setting this up as an outswinger, and that seam was pretty perfect all the way down. It actually seams away, which is probably not what he is trying to do. The ball is magic, but I am not sure if he meant to do it.

Picture Credits - BCCI TV
Picture Credits - BCCI TV

Anderson would often get on the nerves of a batter to try and manufacture wickets, before Bazball. This was quite well set up. I think he went from 127-128 kmph to around the 136-138 kmph mark, ramping it up a little.

Picture Credits - BCCI TV

Too little, too late though?