After being on the front foot for every day of the first Test, England find themselves staring down the barrel at the end of day two of the second Test in Vizag. And they have only themselves to blame for this. On Day 1, Adil Rashid dropped Virat Kohli at fine leg on 56 and he went on score 167.
After James Anderson removed Ajinkya Rahane towards the end of the first day, the need of the hour was early wickets on Day 2. They did manage to get Kohli after 10 overs and Moeen Ali then sent Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja back in the hut in the space of three balls. This helped England pave their way back into the match. With India reduced to 363/7, they had a very good chance of restricting the hosts to below 400 but they squandered that opportunity and let the last three wickets hit 92 runs.
With the fear that the ball might start to turn by the third day, England needed a solid start in order to ensure they could amass as many runs as possible before it starts to assist significant turn. But their batsmen faltered. The ball had already started to turn.
Now, they have their backs against the wall having lost half the side for just 103 runs. Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow did well to see off the final overs but a huge task awaits them on Day 3. Jadeja and Ashwin have started to look ominous and with Stokes and Bairstow being the last recognised pair, they need to mix caution with aggression really well.
Stokes has shown that he has indeed improved his technique against the spinners. Both Stokes and Bairstow are flamboyant batsmen so the runs will come, but they need to make sure that they aren't overaggressive. Both the batsmen will have to score big. England do bat deep but if the pitch deteriorates further, the lower order can be in for a very tough time.
The lower order of Zafar Ansari, Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad and James Anderson too will have to step up and contribute. There are high chances that in case, if applicable, India won't enforce the follow-on. So, England need to get as close as possible to India's total and then try and put pressure on India in the second innings.
But there is still long way to go for that, and they should keep in mind that there is a high possibility that the visitors could be batting last on a surface that is deteriorating quickly. England's middle and lower-middle order will have to take a leaf out of their Indian counterparts.
Kohli might unleash spinners to start off Day 3 and there will be sustained pressure from the Indian bowlers. An uphill task awaits England but this will be a test of character for Stokes and Bairstow. Positive intent along with stability will be the need of the hour. And the visitors will be hoping that they can pass this test with flying colours.