Cricket

IND Vs ENG, 4th Test: Alarmed Ben Stokes Adds Touch Of Intrigue To Ranchi Pitch Talk

India lead England 2-1 in this high-profile ICC World Test Championship series after back-to-back wins in Visakhapatnam and Rajkot. The fourth IND vs ENG Rajkot Test starts Friday

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 (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
England's captain Ben Stokes leaves the field after losing his wicket on the fourth day of the third cricket test match between England and India in Rajkot, India, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
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On the eve of the potentially decisive fourth Test match between India and England in Ranchi, the visiting captain Ben Stokes raised alarm bells by adding intrigue to JSCA International Stadium pitch talk. (IND Vs ENG 4th Test Streaming| More Cricket News)

The build-up to the penultimate match of the five-match series has been dominated by the “platey cracks” on the pitch as described by England batter Ollie Pope.

"It looked interesting, didn't it? I don't know. I can't say much. I don't know, I've never seen something like that before so I have no idea. I don't know what could happen," Stokes was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.

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The venue has hosted two Test matches with the average first innings total touching 474 runs and 382 in the second essay. But the average third innings scored, expectedly, is lower: 168.

The highest total posted here was 603/9 in 210 overs by India in the drawn match against Australia (2017), in which Cheteshwar Pujara hit a double century (202). In fact, in 2019, Rohit Sharma also hit a double ton (212) against South Africa as India won by an innings and 202 runs. The Proteas were dismissed for 162 in 56.2 overs and 133 in 48 overs.

Stokes, of course, has had his reason for adding spice to this pitch talk. In Ranchi, spinners tend to have a say, with appreciable grip, turn and bounce on offer. It's pertinent to mention that Ravindra Jadeja has claimed eight wickets in four matches at the venue for the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League.

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And the India all-rounder is likely to weave his left-spin magic against England, just like he did against the Aussies -- nine-wicket haul in the match.

"If you looked down one side of opposite ends it just looked different to what I am used to seeing, especially out in India,' Stokes added. "It looked green and grassy up in the changing rooms, but then you go out there, it looked different. Very dark and crumbly and quite a few cracks in it.

But Ranchi's pitch could be equally generous to pacers. Pat Cummins claimed a four-fer in 2017, while Umesh Yadav has eight wickets in two matches.

"If you looked down one side of opposite ends it just looked different to what I am used to seeing, especially out in India,' Stokes added. "It looked green and grassy up in the changing rooms, but then you go out there, it looked different. Very dark and crumbly and quite a few cracks in it.

But Ranchi's pitch could be equally generous to pacers. Pat Cummins claimed a four-fer in 2017, while Umesh Yadav has eight wickets in two matches.

As reported by PTI, the nature of the pitch has delayed England deciding on their playing XI. Pacer Ollie Robinson will come in for Mark Wood but the call to add a fourth spinner in Shoaib Bashir or an extra batter in Dan Lawrence is up for debate. Lawrence, for that matter of fact, is also a handy off-spinner.

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"He's (Robinson) got unbelievable skills to be a successful bowler anywhere in the world. What we've seen in England is he's very skilful, but we've seen more than that in Pakistan," Stokes reckoned. "It's similar but different here, but with the skill he possesses, he can find any movement, and his release point is always going to be dangerous.

England won the first match by 28 runs in Hyderabad, but India hit back with back-to-back wins in Visakhapatnam (by 106 runs) and Rajkot (434 runs). England's tour of India 2024 concludes with the fifth Test in Dharamsala, starting March 7, just a couple of weeks before the commencement of the Indian Premier League 2024.

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India vs England, 4th Test starting February 23 (Friday) will be telecast live on the Sports 18 network. JioCinema will provide live streaming on both its app and website.

Meanwhile, Ranchi could see some dry and hot conditions for the first four days with the temperatures swelling to 27 degrees Celcius. If the Test match reaches day five, there is a possibility of rain.

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