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Michael Atherton: England criticism unfair after 3-1 series loss to formidable India

India claimed a five-wicket win over England in the fourth Test to take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series; Follow over-by-over text commentary of the fifth and final Test from March 7-11 on and the Sky Sports App (first ball at 4am)

England captain Ben Stokes (Associated Press)
Image: England's captain Ben Stokes after his side fell to a five-wicket defeat to India in the fourth Test

Sky Sports Cricket expert Michael Atherton says criticism of England's 3-1 loss to India is "unfair" and doesn't fully encapsulate the competitive nature of the series.

England had threatened a historic comeback win as they reduced their hosts to 120-5, chasing 192, shortly after lunch on day four when Shoaib Bashir (3-79) took two wickets in two balls.

But the tourist's hopes of keeping the five-match series alive were lost when India's Shubman Gill (52no) and Dhruv Jurel (39no) put on an unbeaten sixth-wicket partnership worth 72 runs to lead their side to victory.

“I don’t feel too strongly about being too critical of England. It’s a difficult place to come and win, obviously, with nobody able to do so since 2012/13,” said Atherton on the Sky Sports Cricket podcast.

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Former captain Michael Atherton is full of praise for England's performance in India despite a series defeat and says most of the tests have could have gone either way.

“When we were talking about the series before a ball was sent down then I don’t think we expected England to win here, given the relative strength of the spin attack.

“I feel that it has been a competitive series. I feel like India know they’ve been in the tussle, but in the end they were just too good in home conditions.

“I thought this was a particularly good effort from India to win the Test. They lost the toss, they were behind on first innings, but they pulled it around.”

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India looked to be cruising to their target of 192 when openers Rohit Sharma (55) and Yashasvi Jaiswal (37) progressed their partnership to 84 without loss before Joe Root (1-26) struck with the third ball of his first over.

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Speaking on the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast, Michael Atherton says bowler Ollie Robinson needs a run of regular cricket if he is to rediscover his top form.

Though it was Hartley and Bashir that really starred for England, taking a total of 12 wickets during the fourth Test in Ranchi.

Sky Sports' England player ratings: Fourth Test vs India

Zak Crawley 7
Ben Duckett 6
Ollie Pope 3
Joe Root 8.5
Jonny Bairstow 6.5
Ben Stokes 5
Ben Foakes 7
Tom Hartley 7.5
Ollie Robinson 6.5
Shoaib Bashir 8
James Anderson 7

“England's spinners were really good. Shoaib Bashir now has more Test wickets than he had first-class wickets coming into this tour and I thought he bowled excellently," said Atherton.

“I think if you said before the series began that two young spinners, who hadn’t played a Test match and are not really first choice for their counties, would have put performances in like that then I think they would have taken that.

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Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain believe England have performed well in their Test series against India, but will have regrets at not taking chances to win more matches.

“It could conceivably be 4-0 to India because they will feel they should have won that first game in Hyderabad and probably ought to have done.

“You could also say it could be 2-2 as well because England did win in Hyderabad and threw away a strong position here. Even at Rajkot, I know they ended up losing by a massive margin, but that day three was a similar day three to here.

“I felt that the cricket has been competitive and India know they’ve been in a tussle.”

England's Shoaib Bashir celebrates the wicket of Akash Deep on day three of the fourth Test
Image: England's Shoaib Bashir celebrates the wicket of Akash Deep on day three of the fourth Test

Ollie Robinson (0-54) made his first appearance in the series in Ranchi but his contribution was underwhelming as the pace bowler failed to pick up a wicket in his 13 overs during India's first innings, and Stokes chose not to bowl him in the second innings.

“Ollie Robinson I was really disappointed with in this game. His pace was pedestrian. He was down on pace, he obviously got that half-century but dropped a catch and didn’t get called up on by Ben Stokes on the fourth day," said Atherton.

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Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain praise the strength in depth of Indian cricket after they were able to replace star players and still win the Test series against England.

“He looked like a player who had been out of cricket for seven months. For all the training that you do and all the training sessions that you have in Abu Dhabi or whatever, I think he looks like a bowler who needs a good run of game time now and not necessarily with England either.”

Follow over-by-over text commentary from the fifth and final Test between India and England, in Dharamshala, live on and the Sky Sports App from 3.30am on Thursday, March 7 (first ball at 4am).

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