INDIA VS ENGLAND | The Wrap Up - 1st Test, Day 3
With England looking to compound their overnight ascendency, India faced an uphill battle to fight their way into the game on day 3. Here's The Wrap Up:
Poor execution and misfortune paves way for India downfall
The loss of Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara to a full toss and a half tacker respectively has left India chasing the game. Dom Bess could scarcely believe his luck when the latter cannoned his pull shot against the shoulder of short leg Ollie Pope and the ball looped to Rory Burns at mid wicket, Pujara was understandably aggrieved. Likewise, Rahane will have been frustrated to fire his cover drive within range of Joe Root, albeit requiring a sprawling one handed catch. He could have dispatched it anywhere.
Meanwhile, captain Virat Kohli looked timid and reserved as he nudged England's spinners. Rather than suffocating the slow spin or adjusting to it off his back foot, he seemed to intercept it in the danger zone, relying on his hands to respond. For his dismissal from Bess, the man of the moment, he was duped by a ball that uncharacteristically dipped and spat out of the otherwise docile Chennai surface. It was the antithetical to the way the England captain played against the turning ball.
There was a lot more to Rishabh Pant's aggressive 91 off 88 balls than mindless bludgeoning. He was calculated in picking apart Jack Leach, using his feet to mitigate the rough outside his off stump and playing with the spin to score boundaries.
In comparison, he was more watchful against Bess, with the off spinner turning the ball away from Pant's bat and the number 6 largely opting against the risk of countering. It wasn't necessarily that Leach bowled markedly worse than his spin counterpart, but that the wicketkeeper-batsman picked his bowler to get after. The clarity of Pant's approach lay the foundation of his success.
The biggest disappointment for Pant will be the mode of his dismissal. He went against the grain of his game plan, chasing a wide ball and skewing it to deep cover. The analogy of involuntarily crunching a sucking sweet comes to mind here.
Room for England bowling improvement
It seemed quite bizarre that Leach continued to bowl so straight to Pant, allowing him to use his feet and go over mid wicket. The decision to keep him bowling was justified as one felt Pant's eventual downfall was inevitable, but it required some cuter thinking on England's part as to how they could have increased the chance of Pant making a mistake sooner. Bess accrued more success turning the ball away from the left hander and it was therefore a surprise that Root only gave himself one over.
England didn't look to exploit much reverse swing as the day went on. Archer bowled well with the new ball and bowled a peach to dismiss Rohit Sharma. He was then used in short burst as the ball grew older, but it wasn't clear what his plan was. Stokes, England's major exponent of reverse, only bowled six overs - clearly his fitness is being tested after a lengthy spell out.
What happens next?
England are still in the driving seat, and may be faced with the option of enforcing the follow on.
The pitch still seems relatively flat and hasn't offered too much assistance for spin or seamers, but the want to avoid batting last, coupled with the fatigue England bowlers will be feeling after a day in the field, means Root will likely bat again.
For that reason, England need to play with urgency tomorrow. They cannot afford for time to drift away as the likelihood of a draw increases with India's batting depth. The new ball, which will be available after six overs in the morning, will be crucial.
In contrast, if India can take the sting out of any England momentum early on day 4, they will feel confident of not losing the game. Having found themselves 73-4, victims of some unfortunate dismissals, a draw would be a good result for the hosts.
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