The old truism that you can lose a Test in a session has been perfectly encapsulated in this match. England’s dreadful post tea effort late on day two means that even when they have a good day like today – in fact an exceptionally good day – they are so far behind that it merely has the effect of turning certain defeat into probable defeat. That’s not to negate the efforts, for the previous day’s post on here talked about the need for England to show some spirit and fight, and they’ve unquestionably done that and done it well.
And yet ironically enough the first part of the day couldn’t have gone any better for India in terms of the match position, while going badly in terms of the innings itself. The temptation to bat on too long exists in the hearts of most captains not called McCullum. By being bowled out, and removing that possibility from the equation, it gave India all the time they should need to bowl England out and go one up.
England needing 405 on days four and five of a pitch offering variable bounce is out of the question. There is invariably the temptation to believe any target below 700 is possible, but the rarity with which it happens when chasing over 300 let alone 400 merely indicates that the inherent conservatism concerning targets extends as much to observers as participants. For England to so much as draw the game from where they were would amount to a serious achievement.
Adil Rashid did most of the damage with the ball, once again. He has been the pick of the England attack throughout the series so far, yet seems peculiarly unlikely to receive much credit for it from those who have invested so much capital in discussing his shortcomings, both real and imagined – and in some instances bordering on character assassination.
Broad too picked up a further couple of wickets from the day before, and while it is good to see him bowling well, it remains to be seen if there will be a price to pay given the compacted nature of the series. He is clearly not fully fit. In terms of the match position it hasn’t actually done any good, except in terms of morale, which certainly shouldn’t be underestimated. Perhaps the coaching and medical team are quite right and there will be no ill effects, but their record is decidedly mixed in that regard.
One thing the England attack do need to work out is how to get rid of Kohli. He is proving the difference between the teams at present.
Cook and Hameed’s response was excellent, taking up nearly 60 overs and blunting the Indian attack. It wasn’t flashy, it wasn’t exciting, but it did provide England with a chance of saving the game. The two late dismissals swung the likelihood back towards an Indian victory, but it gave the tourists a potential way out. Cook’s dismissal to the last ball of the day was celebrated by an Indian team entirely aware that he was probably the one man who could bat an entire day to frustrate them in a defensive rearguard.
Safe in the knowledge that there is no prospect of losing, they will be able to crowd the bat all day, and have a second new ball arriving shortly before lunch. That does mean at least Root and Duckett will have the chance to play themselves in against an old ball.
England have got themselves into this position through one bad session, and have given themselves a slim chance of saving it by winning almost every subsequent one. A bad session on the final day will lose the match, but more than that even a balanced session will go a long way to doing the same. They have to win all three. Should they do so, it will be one of England’s better escapes in recent times. It’s unlikely, but they fought well today. In itself that’s a good sign.
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