When a player of Joe Root’s stature loses his patience and goes for an ugly slog over mid-off, you know the times were tough for visitors on Friday.
England began the second well, as Moeen Ali took the vital wicket of Virat Kohli for 167. Shortly after drinks, he dismissed Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja within three balls. India found themselves struggling at 363/7 and the target of 500 felt far-fetched all of a sudden. A 400 was deemed as a get-table total at that point.
But Ravichandran Ashwin and debutant Jayant Yadav stitched together a partnership of 64 and ensured that India posted 455 in their first innings. The hosts did give away the advantage after they ended Day 1 on 317/4, but if one asked Virat Kohli whether he would take 450 at the toss, he would’ve definitely said yes.
It was a challenging chase for England, and Mohammed Shami made it even more difficult for them after castling Alastair Cook for just two runs to break the visitors' batting backbone in the 3rd over. Saha, who dropped a couple of catches in the 1st Test off Umesh Yadav, effected an impressive run out to send back Haseeb Hameed in the pavilion.
Thereafter, it were the spinners who made the English batsmen dance to their tunes. Ashwin got rid of Root and Ben Duckett, while the Decision Review System (DRS) helped Jayant register his maiden Test wicket.
However, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes showed fortitude and ensured that England don’t lose another wicket. They played defensively, churning out dots after dots, but it was the need of the hour.
Cook and his team came to India following a humiliating defeat against Bangladesh. Their vulnerability against spin had put them under immense pressure. Everyone expected them to suffer a heavy defeat in the first Test. A sport is as much of a psychological test as it is physical. A successful team needs to be able to strike some fear in the minds of their opposition but India seemed to have lost that advantage after the opening Test. England fared well owing to the flat deck at Rajkot and their performance must have boosted their confidence.
However, in Vizag, England have had to face their weaknesses again as the pitch has adhered to spinning conditions. Ashwin and the Indian spinners exploited the conditions extremely well and should aim to continue doing so on Day 3. Stokes scored a century in the first Test and it’s important that India remove him quickly to have the option of follow-on.
England trail by 352 runs and it goes without saying that the hosts should look to bundle them out as soon as possible. Having done that, they should bat in the third innings and make England toil in the heat. This would not only tire the opposition but will also guarantee that the visitors bat last on the fourth day.
India have dominated the match so far, and should not allow England any respite on Day 3 to sustain the pressure.