England, after finally dismissing India for 631, must have walked back to the pavilion in a state of shock. They were outplayed. They were exhausted. Yes, they were at the receiving end of one of Virat Kohli’s best Test innings and an outstanding maiden century from Jayant Yadav. But India’s sizable lead of 231 runs was another blow to their battered bodies. To add to their misery, especially openers Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings’, in a few minutes with no time for recuperation, they had to face the wrath of Indian spinners.
The task was daunting and they were expected to succumb to the pressure. Even the most optimistic English fans would’ve considered to sleep it off rather than see their team suffer against the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, bowling from round the wicket, nipped one back in to dismiss Jennings, the hero of England’s first innings, for a golden duck. It was a bonus wicket, considering that everyone expected the spinners to dominate. Just when it seemed like that Cook’s tour can’t get any worse (amidst poor captaincy and lack of form), Jadeja trapped the England captain LBW for 18 and made him his 100th victim. The Indian spinner bettered his tally by one in his very next over, forcing Moeen Ali take the long walk back to the hut and tea.
Everything was going haywire for England. Amidst the crisis, Joe Root took it upon himself to pull his team out of the tough position. He picked the gaps extremely well and frustrated Kohli and Co. If there was a fine leg fielder, he would sweep it to deep midwicket. If Kohli deployed a man at deep midwicket, he swept it fine. While Jonny Bairstow struggled to pick Ashwin’s variations, Root was reaching to the pitch of the ball comfortably well and was looking to play positive cricket and not go into the shell.
England still trail by 49 runs, with 4 wickets in hand. If experts are to be believed, the visitors would do a tremendous job if they take it into the second session of Day 5. They have predicted that India will win the match by lunch. While it may just turn out the way they’ve prophesied, what can the visitors do to not let the match slip away so easily?
Root, in his sublime knock of 77, proved that its not impossible to bat. England need to understand that surviving for a day against spin is simply not feasible. They cannot play out Ashwin and Jadeja. They should approach the innings positively and mix aggression with caution.
“There’s no point to bat and try for a draw in this game. No ease for us in this series. We gotta go and win this game somehow. That’d mean that being positive with the bat. Whether its 80 or 100 run lead, something to bowl at on a pitch that’s turning a lot,” James Anderson was quoted as saying to Test Match Special after the day’s play.
England have nothing to lose in the match. They still have Bairstow, who scored a valiant 89 at Mohali, and Jos Buttler, who ensured that his team’s 1st innings total reaches 400 by scoring a crucial 76.
Despite England’s best efforts, it seems inevitable that Kohli and his men will clinch the series at Mumbai. However, it is important for the visitors to put out a message and delay it for as long as possible.
First Published On : Dec 12, 2016 08:15 IST