It seemed it would be a similar story as day one and two when the Indian openers, Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, were going great guns on day three of the first Test between India and England at Rajkot. But the fag end of the day provided an interesting little turn in the tale. Adil Rashid and Zafar Ansari struck a blow each in the last couple of overs to make sure they ended a tiring day for England on a happy note.
It wasn't that England bowled badly, but Vijay and Pujara were pretty solid at the wicket and played some good calculative cricket. They managed to stitch together a 209-run stand before Ben Stokes finally provided some relief to the visitors, scalping the wicket of Pujara.
Then, just as Vijay and Kohli were getting into the groove, Rashid bowled a terrific googly to send back Vijay. This meant that England had both the set batsmen back in the hut.
Ansari then sent back nightwatchman Amit Mishra in the final over of the day to reduce India to 319/4. The last two wickets have provided England a slight opening.
England assistant coach Paul Farbrace said that while the two late wickets might not have given them a distinct edge, but to get them was a "real bonus" and that "it's given us a lift in our dressing room".
"I think credit goes to our perseverance and a very disciplined way of bowling all day," said Farbrace at the media conference after the day's play.
India still trail by 218 runs and with two days to go, a draw looks the biggest possibility. However, England should look to pounce upon this slight opening and go into day four with a positive mindset. India will be a bit cautious given they are more than 200 runs behind and having lost both set batsmen. This is where the England pacers would look to cash in, and scalp the wicket of Kohli early. Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad bowled testing spells on day three and an early wicket of Kohli on day four would instill confidence in them for pushing for a win.
The England spinners would also need to step up. There was some extra bounce and turn on offer with a tinge of green. And the cracks might start to widen as the day progresses. Ansari went at 3.25 runs an over, Rashid at 2.93 and Moeen Ali at 3.18. They need to apply more pressure. Rashid was impressive but he would need to go that one step further. Moeen needs to step up as he went wicketless and ended up conceding 70 runs from 22 overs. What Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar did back in 2012 was to create sustained pressure and that earned them wickets.
"They are still 200 runs behind but it's still an excellent pitch. It's typical in these parts of the world where you get very good cricket pitch. But then things start to happen around tea time on day four and things happen quickly," Farbrace said.
"Both sides were expecting the wicket to turn more, the cracks have certainly opened over the last three days and some of them have started to crack on the edge. You might start to see a little bit more variable bounce as well. When you are 200 runs in front you hope that happens. That's why it's important to get your runs in the first innings," the England assistant coach added.
England, however, should know that the Indian lower order has performed well of late and even if they manage to remove Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, they can't afford to rest. They will have to be relentless with their pressure in order to sniff a win.
We've seen in this Test that England pacers have been getting reverse swing early. It will be that sort of day where England would pray for that game-changing spell in that one session from Broad.
It would be tough given the form of Kohli, Rahane and Saha. Much will depend on how the pitch behaves. If England do manage to get about a 100-run lead then this match might take an interesting turn going into day five. They have the batsmen to score quick runs to set up a decent target with time constraint. It won't be wrong for England to dream of a win but in order to achieve that dream, they will have to be ruthless and relentless.
First Published On : Nov 12, 2016 09:12 IST