Former England bowler Steve Harmison claimed Dom Bess had been “chucked under the bus” after his struggles with the ball helped India turn the tide on day two of the fourth Test.
The game was finely balanced with the hosts 146 for six in response to 205, but a stunning 101 from Rishabh Pant and an unbeaten 60 from Washington Sundar changed things dramatically in the evening session.
India ended 89 ahead on 294 for seven, leaving England to rue an uneven attack which had been thinned out to make room for an extra batsman. Bess’ form on his return to the side left them even more vulnerable, as he was trusted with just 15 overs and finished wicketless at a cost of 56.
His figures could have been worse given the lack of control he was able to exert, but the 23-year-old received a sympathetic hearing from Harmison, who questioned his treatment on the tour.
After taking 17 wickets at 22 each in the first three Tests of the winter, he was dropped for Moeen Ali, who was then asked to delay a planned rest period and remain with the squad. Had he agreed, Bess would probably not have taken the field in Ahmedabad.
“Dom Bess was chucked under the bus by the whole hullabaloo with Moeen Ali,” Harmison told talkSPORT’s Followin On podcast.
“The minute they asked Moeen Ali to stay was the minute Bess was going under that bus. That, for me, was a downward spiral for a young kid who has played very few Test matches.
The minute they asked Moeen Ali to stay was the minute Bess was going under that bus. That, for me, was a downward spiral for a young kid who has played very few Test matchesSteve Harmison
“He sat and watched for the last two or three weeks and all he can think about is Moeen Ali staying – ‘Everybody’s wanting Moeen Ali’.
“That’s culminated in the day’s cricket that we’ve got today. I feel so sorry for the kid, I really do. I have so much sympathy with him, I’ve been in that place and I know where he’s at.
“The selection hasn’t helped him either. Not having an extra bowler has magnified it. That will put him under even more mental pressure.
“He’ll feel even worse for not performing. It’s such a dark and lonely place when you’re out there. I hate to bring it up to magnify it, but that dressing room will be on egg shells about how to treat Dom Bess.”
If I'm being honest I think right now he'd be quite down and quite tiredJeetan Patel on Dom Bess
Spin bowling coach Jeetan Patel admitted things had not gone to plan on his return.
“He would have liked to bowl a lot better today and to have given a lot more to the group. It didn’t work out for him,” he said.
“If I’m being honest I think right now he’d be quite down and quite tired. But the beauty of this game, and I mean it, is there’s another opportunity tomorrow.”
England’s limited bowling options forced Ben Stokes to step into the breach and carry the attack to India for long periods, sending down 20 overs in the day after being given only 15 in the series so far.
He responded with gusto, dismissing Virat Kohli for a duck and the in-form Rohit Sharma one short of his half-century before he ran out gas in the face of Pant’s late assault.
Not only had Stokes been fighting a stomach bug for the past 48 hours, he had also top-scored with 55 in the England innings.
“Stokesy is your man, he’s the guy you want to go to for anything really,” said Patel.
“He’s almost like a superman with this sort of stuff, he really does enjoy the tough battles.
“This morning’s spell, to bowl for an hour-and-a-half in the first session and create the opportunities he did, you’ve got to tip your hat to that
“To come back at the end when things were flatter and weren’t quite working…it’s pretty special to see.”