England in India: Ollie Pope's Century - A Masterclass in Test Cricket

CEO Tam DT
Pope's 196 was the highest score by an England batter in the second innings in India Ollie Pope's remarkable innings against India will be remembered as one of the greatest in Test cricket, especially in...

Ollie Pope Pope's 196 was the highest score by an England batter in the second innings in India

Ollie Pope's remarkable innings against India will be remembered as one of the greatest in Test cricket, especially in India. While many talk about Dean Jones' heroics in Chennai back in 1986, Ollie Pope's performance in the first Test in Hyderabad deserves equal acclaim.

Pope had to confront multiple challenges - a wearing pitch, his team trailing by 190 runs at the start of the innings, and his own struggle against spin. Moreover, he faced the formidable trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and Axar Patel, who together have an astounding 829 Test wickets. But Pope dismantled their bowling attack, leaving them perplexed and searching for answers.

Pope shakes hands with Rohit Sharma after being dismissed Pope hit 21 fours in his 278-ball knock before finally being bowled by Jasprit Bumrah

Watching a batsman smash the ball around is always entertaining, but what impressed me the most was Pope's clever and calculated innings. He combined aggressive boundary-hitting with intelligent singles, showcasing a balanced and modern approach to playing on a spinning pitch in India.

This Indian team struggled to execute Pope's innovative shots. While they rarely play the sweep, Pope built his innings around the reverse sweep, hitting it from point to square leg and even scooping the ball over his own head. This forced India to deploy fielders in strategic positions, opening up scoring opportunities for Pope.

What made his innings truly remarkable was his ability to reverse sweep even the best deliveries from the bowlers. When a spinner pitches the ball perfectly, and a batsman still manages to hit it for runs, it leaves the bowler bewildered and unsure of what to do next.

There have been suggestions that the pitch got easier to bat on as the match progressed, but in reality, it remained a challenging surface throughout. The uneven bounce kept the batsmen on their toes, with some balls shooting low and others spinning unexpectedly. Pope's boldness and initiative disrupted the game plan of the Indian bowlers, and suddenly they found themselves on the back foot.

This innings will undoubtedly have a significant impact on Pope's career. His talent has never been in question, but this masterclass has the potential to unlock his full potential as a free-spirited player. From his first Test hundred against South Africa in Port Elizabeth to his innovative innings against India, Pope has consistently displayed his ability to innovate and play the modern way.

Credit must also be given to Captain Ben Stokes and Coach Brendon McCullum for their support and guidance. By appointing Pope as the vice-captain, they not only recognized his talent but also provided him with added responsibility, which has brought out the best in him. Stokes's mentorship and their positive team environment have allowed Pope to express himself freely, without any constraints.

Critics may dismiss their style of play as mere "Bazball," but it is far more than just smashing the ball around. It is a mindset that creates a positive atmosphere for players to thrive and excel. While there may be occasions when a more measured approach is required, the complete backing from the captain and coach has empowered Pope to play innings like this one.

Regardless of the final outcome of this series, England's approach should be commended and learned from. Ollie Pope's outstanding performance is a testament to the effectiveness of supporting players and allowing them to believe in their abilities. It is truly liberating.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Matthew Henry

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