‘One of the best knocks I’ve ever seen’: Pope lauded after ‘masterclass’ gives England hope in Hyderabad
Ollie Pope had left his England teammates in awe with a remarkable century in the first Test against India, leaving even Joe Root scrambling for superlatives.
Root finally settled on “absolute masterclass” as he tried to sum up Pope’s unbeaten 148 on day three in Hyderabad – high praise indeed from a man with more than 11,000 Test runs and 30 centuries under his belt.
England were 190 runs behind when they started their second innings, but Pope defied the perilous match situation, an unpredictable pitch and a world-class bowling attack on Saturday to produce a career-best knock.
He overcame all three as he hit 17 fours over 208 deliveries and he carried the tourists to 6-316 – a handy lead of 126, in circumstances that could easily have produced an innings defeat.
That it all came in his first match back after six months sidelined by shoulder surgery, on a surface where the next best score from either team stands at 87, was even more impressive.
Should England somehow find a route to an unlikely victory over the next two days, it will surely go down as an all-time classic.
“I’m speechless really…it’s one of the best knocks I’ve ever seen,” said Root.
“I’ve seen a lot of cricket, I’ve played and batted out there in the middle with a lot of brilliant players and to witness that was really special.
“There’s a lot of people in our dressing room that have seen and played a lot of cricket that are of the same mind as I am.
“The way that Popey played today, honestly, it’s an absolute masterclass in how to bat in these conditions as an overseas player.
“We all know he’s got an array of shots and can score all round the wicket, but to have the self-belief and desire to put a score together for the team and get us to where we are now was outstanding.
“The maturity he showed, the smarts, the way he manoeuvred the field…it was unbelievable. You sit here very emotional being part of it, but I’m sure I’ll sit back and still be impressed and wowed by the way he’s played.”
Root has long been England’s standard-bearer in Asia, where he has scored five centuries, including doubles in Galle and Chennai, but suggested he would happily pass the torch to Pope.
“I’m not any more, I think that’s the benchmark,” he said.
“I might have scored a few runs in the sub-continent but not on a surface like that, against an attack like that.
“I didn’t even mind when he ‘big dogged’ me and said, ‘Can you do the press tonight?’
England will want to add plenty more runs on day four to flip the pressure back on their opponents and will be hampered in the fourth innings by an injury to lead spinner Jack Leach.
It is understood he is suffering from pain and swelling, but Root is full of positivity about the way his side have taken the fight to hosts who have lost just three times in their last 46 games at home.
“Dream the dream. We’ll go to bed and think of what could be tomorrow, then throw everything at the day.”