On balance, England will be pleased by their efforts today. If yesterday was a case of throwing away an advantage through carelessness, today was about grabbing opportunities when they arose. Good Test matches are about ebb and flow, and today was a perfect example, with India dominant for the first half, England fighting back superbly, only for India to put themselves in a good position by the close.
Any hopes England could extend their innings vanished the moment Adil Rashid was dismissed. 283 all out is enough to be in the game, but no more than that. All those saying that the toss determined the outcome of the previous match forgot to mention that the toss only becomes critical if a team takes advantage of it. England didn’t, and ended up on the backfoot as a result.
With India 148-2 in reply, and Pujara and Kohli well set, it appeared that England were about to pay the price for their profligacy. A brilliant catch by Woakes to dismiss Pujara from a Rashid long hop, a timely googly from the same bowler to dismiss the luckless Rahane for a globe, and a magnificent piece of fielding by Jos Buttler to remove Nair and England were right back in it, indeed they were if anything on top and hopeful of a surprising first innings lead.
That really proved to be as good as it got though. Removing Kohli was a bonus, but Ashwin and Jadeja’s unbroken 67 run stand has got the hosts within 12 of England, and with two such dangerous players in, it could yet be an uphill task from here.
Throughout this series England have been playing catch up cricket, clawing their way back into the game by undoing the self-inflicted damage of the day before. Today was no different, for the pitch looks good, and Ashwin in particular looked in trouble whatever.
Yet there is an opportunity here. If England can get reasonably quick wickets and face no more than a small deficit, then if they bat well second time around – and they need to bat far, far better than they have so far – then there is ample time to bat at their leisure, wait for the pitch to deteriorate and get themselves into a strong position. It is all ifs. India will feel they are capable of a decent lead and bowling England out cheaply, and it’s hard to disagree that is a serious possibility.
But the point is that England have a chance of winning this Test. It’s up to them whether they take it, but there should be no hard luck stories or complaints about getting a raw deal. England have had the advantage here; so far they haven’t made use of it. So far.
A decent day today for the visitors. A decent one tomorrow will do nicely.
Day three comments below