An investigation will be launched into allegations of racist abuse aimed at spectators during the fourth day of the Test match between England and India at Edgbaston, with fans of the visiting side reported to have been “literally in tears” and stewards said to have told those who experienced problems to “sit down”.
Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire cricketer who has become a campaigner against discrimination in cricket, highlighted some posts on social media describing the racist behaviour experienced at the ground.
“I’m all for some good banter between fans but today was some of the worst abuse we’ve ever experienced at a match,” read one. “Some disgusting racism. The stewards actually told the India fans to sit down whilst allowing the abuse to go ahead.” Another fan described being abused in the Hollies Stand: “We reported it to the stewards and showed them the culprits but no response and all we were told is to sit in our seats.”
Responding to the allegations, a post on Edgbaston’s official Twitter account said: “We’re incredible sorry to read this and do not condone this behaviour in any way. We’ll be investigating this ASAP.” The England and Wales Cricket Board said: “We are very concerned to hear reports of racist abuse at today’s Test match. We are in contact with colleagues at Edgbaston who will investigate. There is no place for racism in cricket.”
The allegations cast a depressingly familiar shadow over what had otherwise been an overwhelmingly positive day for English cricket, which ended with England three wickets down and requiring an apparently trivial 119 more runs to complete the biggest run chase in their history.
But for a wild period either side of tea when three wickets fell for two runs England’s pursuit of their apparently daunting target of 378 was largely serene. At stumps Joe Root was on 76 and Jonny Bairstow on 72, their partnership already worth 150. “In Test cricket there’s always a chance for both sides but, if we bat well for the first 30 or 40 minutes, I can’t see there being any other result [than a win],” said Alex Lees.
Having successfully chased scores in excess of 250 in each of their three recent Tests against New Zealand, England appeared undaunted even by this much meatier order. “We had some good experiences over the last series and I think there’s ultimate belief from one to 11 that we can do it,” Lees said. “Everybody’s pretty confident. The target, you know it’s there but it’s not something we spoke about. Within the dressing room nobody even thought about it.
“We think it’s a pretty good wicket, there’s a tiny bit of variable bounce but it shouldn’t really cause any issues, it’s quite a good outfield and as a unit our batters are getting runs. It could have been more and I think the psychology, the approach wouldn’t be too different.”
If England need a reality check as they go into the final day apparently in control of the game, with three wickets down and needing 119, India came into the penultimate day apparently in control, with three wickets down and scored another 120. They lost their final six wickets for 55 runs as Shreyas Iyer, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were all caught off short balls.
“The thing that actually brought us back into the game was our bowling,” said Lees. “We could easily have been chasing 450 or 500.”
Vikram Rathour, India’s batting coach, described it as “a pretty ordinary day as far as batting is concerned”, with his side’s fallibility against short deliveries particularly disappointing. “We were ahead, we should have batted better and put them out of the game,” he said. “Unfortunately it didn’t happen. People have been using the short ball against us for quite some time. We could have handled it slightly differently – unfortunately today we didn’t execute whatever plans we had.”