After being on the back foot for the entire first Test, India are in a familiar position at home at the end of Day 3 of the second Test. After a tough time in Rajkot, Ravichandran Ashwin was back to what he does best – scalp fifers.
England had their backs to the wall at the end of Day 2 and needed overnight batsmen Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow to score big. They started the day well and put up a 100-run stand. But as has been the case of late, Umesh Yadav provided the crucial breakthrough for the hosts, sending back Bairstow and England crumbled to the guile of Ashwin from there on. Ashwin and Jadeja looked threatening and gave a glimpse of the destruction they can create in the fourth innings.
As expected, India didn't enforce the follow on with a lead of 200. England came out fighting with a half-fit Stuart Broad picking up two wickets and James Anderson picking up one to reduce India to 40/3. But it was again that man – Virat Kohli – who stood like a rock and completed yet another half century to power India forward.
India are well on top in this Test and are already 298 runs ahead with seven wickets in hand. Kohli seems to be batting on an altogether different wicket. Rahane has given him good support so far and going into the fourth day, the idea would be simple: be ruthless. Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane can both up the ante at will and India would be looking to bat two sessions and try and score more than 100 in each to set a target of around 500.
They have done it in the past and the pair have had significant impact on the opposition bowlers. Targeting the spinners would be the key. They shouldn't allow them to dictate terms as it will be difficult to score runs off Broad and Anderson who have bowled with good discipline in the match so far.
Kohli has gone for safety first in earlier matches and more often than not, he's got the timing of his declarations right. This will give the Indian bowlers four sessions to bowl England out which would be sufficient, given the pitch would deteriorate further.
However, they shouldn't let complacency creep in because Stokes, Bairstow, Cook and Root have been in good touch. Haseeb Hameed had shown good technique against spin. The bowlers would have got sufficient rest by then and Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav should come out firing on all cylinders after setting up the target.
India should be relentless, they should be ruthless which will not only help them achieve a convincing victory but also inflict scars on England which will impact them psychologically going into the third Test at Mohali. The blueprint of a win is ready, India just need to go all out to execute it to perfection.