Pope’s standout performance

Ollie Pope, Hyderabad, January 28th 2024

Ollie Pope’s match-winning innings in the 1st Test v India at Hyderabad attracted praise from some of cricket’s leading commentators and former players, with Sachin Tendulkar describing it as “the standout performance by an Englishman on Indian soil”.

Pope (Loveday 2016), in his first proper match since undergoing surgery on his shoulder he injured last June, made 196. In nine previous innings he had scored only 154 runs at 17.11 but this was a different player altogether. It was as much the manner in which he made his runs as the number scored. Coming in with England still 145 runs behind India with nine second-innings wickets in hand, Pope unleashed a series of audacious shots including a barrage of reverse sweeps and two remarkable ramp shoots over the keeper’s head. India’s spinners looked increasingly bewildered as good balls received the same treatment as bad ones.

“He didn’t rely on brute strength or one aspect of his game,” former England captain Joe Root said. “He could get down the wicket, he could sweep, reverse sweep, play off the back foot, and he dealt with the reverse swing.”

“When the chips were down for his team he shone through,” Tendulkar said. “A combination of sound shot selection, staying positive and good footwork, especially against our spinners.”

“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,” former England captain Root said. “Honestly, it was an absolute masterclass in how to bat in these conditions as an overseas player. That’s the benchmark. I might have scored a few runs in the subcontinent but not on a surface like that against an attack like that.”

Pope, who was named as England’s Test vice-captain last summer, had given a pep talk to the England side before the start of the third day. “That’s what you want from leaders and he’s certainly become one of those over the last year or so,” Root said. “To lead from the front as vice-captain shows a lot about him and about us developing as a team.”