INDIA VS ENGLAND | The Wrap Up - 1st Test, Day 4
England needed to break an impressive partnership, wrap up the tail and look to set up a declaration. With an exciting day 4 in prospect, here's The Wrap Up:
Ups and downs of spin
The quintet of spin bowlers across both sides have flown through turbulence this Test. Jack Leach was taken to the cleaners by an attacking Risabh Pant, whilst Dom Bess held up the other end in the first innings. For India Washington Sundar went wicketless through his 26 overs in the first innings despite bowling with markedly improved consistency on day 2.
Spin bowlers require remarkable resilience and self-belief considering they are not necessarily the architects of their own downfall, or indeed cause of their success. Dom Bess scarcely deserved the wickets of Ajinkya Rahane or Chesteshwar Pujara, both of which were bought about through large slices of fortunate, whilst Jack Leach toiled for little reward. Ravichandran Ashwin bowled well for his 6-for today but was helped by some fallible batting in strange tactical circumstances.
Yet, the mark of a good spinner is their ability to win games in the fourth innings, particularly in the sub-continent. Bess and Leach have both been called into question for their inconsistencies since the Sri Lanka series, but they can stamp their authority tomorrow. Leach's delivery to dismiss Rohit Sharma was a peach today, and England will need a lot more where that came from. However, they will need to be clever and cuter with the tactical plans to build pressure. Make life difficult by minimising scoring options, force the likes of Pant into a mistake. The spin duo can put England into series ascendancy with a good day.
England tactics pose questions
Just as England were looking firmly in the driving seat, a tactical decision with little rationality surfaced. 400 was touted as the conservative lead required to put India under pressure, with four sessions seemingly necessary to put England in a position take 10 wickets. The goal was to find the sweet spot between those two factors. A volume of runs difficult to chase, yet with enough time to take wickets. That England opted against a semblance of aggression, bar a few sweeping blows from Joe Root and a solitary six from Jos Buttler, was bizarre.
Clearly, England wanted to bat long and take the loss out of the equation, but doing so they showed a blatant fear of the India batting line up. There is no question it is strong, but should England have lost posting a target of 360 it will not have left egg on their face, but would have been due to Indian excellence. England have legislated for Indian heroics in batting so long, reduced their own chances of winning and made the draw ever more likely. If they are to win in India, they will need a kind of bravery not shown in the final session.
Bizarre no balls
A noticeable quirk of this Test has been the sound of a siren, prompted by the third umpire when a new ball has been bowled. To India's frustration, it has been used an awful lot. It may seem trivial, but the fact India bowled 27 no balls is a remarkable.
Firstly, it calls into question how many no balls have been missed over the years of the on-field umpire checking the front foot. More importantly, India have made a rod for their own back. They would be chasing below 400 had they not bowled them, which in itself is no easy target, but it would clearly increase their chance.
14 of those no balls have been bowled by spinners Ashwin and Nadeem, a clear area for improvement next time around in Chennai.
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