India v England: ‘Rishabh Pant will be one of the great keeper-batsmen if he carries on at this level’


Rishabh Pant hit 13 fours and two sixes in his 101 off 118 balls

India’s Rishabh Pant is going to be one of the greatest wicketkeeper-batsmen there has ever been if he carries on at this level.

The 23-year-old hit what certainly feels like a series-winning century on day two of the final Test in Ahmedabad, helping India, who lead 2-1, close 89 runs ahead of England, with three first-innings wicket left.

He is an incredibly fearless young player who doesn’t seem to worry at all about the situation – India were 146-6 in reply to England’s 205 but then Pant put on a crucial stand of 113 with Washington Sundar.

There had been some concerns about his wicketkeeping and he had a very average first Test with the gloves, but it’s definitely improved and it seems like his brilliant batting is giving him confidence that’s rubbing off on his keeping.

He also showed the correct way to play in this context. He got his eye in then attacked the second new ball, showing from his first shot against it – hitting James Anderson down the ground for four – that he was not going to allow England to take back any initiative.

To then also reverse sweep Anderson, one of the greatest bowlers of all time, like he did was incredible and bringing up his third century in his 20th Test with a six was typical of his character.

He is going to be a very, very special cricketer for a long time.

Selection gamble shown up

When a batsman plays an innings like that in a low-scoring match, you quickly panic as the fielding captain because the game rushes away from you in just a few overs and those runs are so damaging.

Joe Root had nowhere to go – it’s presumably why Ben Stokes was brought on to bowl the 75th over in extreme heat, despite having bowled his heart out in the morning and even though he still had to take the new ball five overs later.

That period of the day and Pant’s innings showed the full ramifications of England’s selection in picking an extra batsman and dropping a seamer in Stuart Broad.

They admit they got it wrong in the last Test, when they went with three front-line pace bowlers and then spin proved important, and they were really clutching at straws with their selection here.

No one will have expected the red ball to have swung as much as it has in this game when the pink ball didn’t in the day-night Test, so England had some justification and you can see the logic – but, as always, there comes a real gamble.

Bringing back off-spinner Dom Bess, who was dropped for the last two Tests and whose confidence has clearly been hit as a result, was a gamble.

Taking out a seamer was a gamble because it means Anderson and Stokes have to bowl more overs and now you worry with the heat about whether England’s bowlers have enough stamina to really go at India if they are able to set the hosts a challenging target.

England have got to get Bess right

England spinner Dom Bess looks on during play on day two of the final Test against India
Dom Bess has figures of 0-56 off 15 overs so far in India’s first innings

Bess obviously did not bowl well, but it’s incredibly hard to come back into a side after being dropped for two matches and in conditions in which you are supposed to excel.

He’ll know why he was dropped – it’s the full tosses he bowls and not being accurate and consistent enough.

So when he comes on and bowls a couple of full tosses that get hit for four, he knows what everyone else in the team is thinking, especially the captain and vice-captain Stokes, who were part of the decision to drop him.

It’s really difficult, there is no hiding place.

It was unfortunate his lbw shout against Pant, when he was on 35, wasn’t given out and was umpire’s call on review. It could have really boosted his confidence.

But despite picking up five wickets in the first Test against India and 12 wickets in the 2-0 series win over Sri Lanka, Bess has not actually bowled that well throughout the winter.

Now the wickets have dried up, batsmen can just sit on him, wait for the bad ball and hit it for four.

Bess bowled really well in South Africa last year so there’s something not quite right at the moment and England have got to get it right because he’s a good cricketer.

He can bat, he’s a good fielder and he’s got a great character so he’ll be a valuable player for England, but he’s got to be more reliable with the ball.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport’s Jack Skelton.

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