The gutting reactions of Alastair Cook and Joe Root after the third umpire dismissed his review, summed up the Day 4 perfectly. The visiting captain was trapped lbw by Ravindra Jadeja after scoring a valiant knock of 54. Take that (last) ball of Day 4 out of the equation and the situation would’ve been drastically different at Vizag. Though Cook and Haseeb Hameed put up a resilient show with the bat, which must have taken the hosts by surprise, India walked off the field happy despite not being at their best.
India started the day with 98 on board. Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane were at the crease and most likely the plan would’ve been to score 250-300 and declare. But Stuart Broad, whose fitness is under the scanner currently, and Adil Rashid ran through the Indian batting line-up, dismissing the Asian nation for 204 in their second innings.
Rahane, who never looked settled in his innings of 26, fell to Broad’s leg-cutter, nicking it to Cook at first slip. Ravichandran Ashwin, half centurion in the first innings of the Test, walked in to replace the Indian vice-captain at the crease. But patience had the better of him as he edged a delivery which was going away from his body to Jonny Bairstow.
Leggie Rashid sent back Ravindra Jadeja and Wriddhiman Saha back to the hut, while an absolute screamer from Ben Stokes made Kohli take the long walk back to the pavilion for 81. However, Jayant Yadav and Mohammed Shami put up a partnership of 42 runs to take hosts’ lead past 400.
England began their chase with a daunting, or relatively unachievable, 405 runs target ahead of them. Cook and Hameed had come out with a definite plan, which was executed with near perfection. The defensive strategy frustrated the hosts as both the openers blocked ball after ball, without allowing the Indian bowlers any respite. In their partnership of 75, which lasted for more than 50 overs, the duo hardly made any errors and applied themselves tremendously well.
A rather unlucky incident saw the end of a defiant innings from young Hameed. Ashwin’s ball kept low and struck the 19-year-old right in front of the stumps. It was the pitch that provided India the breakthrough and not the bowler.
Indian bowlers looked clueless during the blockathon. Post tea, Kohli introduced pace from both ends. Both Umesh Yadav and Shami kept bowling it outside off, wasting their energies to no avail. The English batsmen kept leaving those balls alone and grew in confidence. The hosts didn’t have a plan B when plan A wasn’t working.
The same shouldn’t repeat on Day 5 if India aims to emerge victorious. Cook and Hameed have showed that despite the demons in the pitch, it is possible to survive if one applies one well. And with the likes of Root, Stokes, Bairstow and Moeen Ali still left, the hosts have a long way to go.
First up and it goes without saying, but India needs to remove Root as early as possible. He poses the biggest threat and his wicket would diminish the hopes of a draw for the visitors. Stokes and Bairstow might not be as defensively sound or patient as the openers, but when batting together they have showed that they can put up a fight and passing this hurdle would be vital for Kohli and Co.
Its a layman's guess that spinners hold the key to the win and they should not be complacent. Jadeja created some problems for the visitors by bowling in the rough from the Subba Rao End and Kohli should look to continue with that ploy. However, the onus is on Ashwin to guide the team to victory.
Hosts have the momentum having dismissed Cook on the very last ball but they were poor on Day 4, they need to be disciplined on Day 5 and not overdo in the pursuit of wickets. It is still India’s game and they should look to finish the game before tea. Once its goes down to the last session the pressure will be equal on both the teams and India wouldn’t want themselves in a desperate condition at the fag end of the match.