India vs England, 2nd Test: Cornered visitors must not withdraw into a shell on Day 4
The key for England would be to stay focused, play the Indian spinners with soft hands and importantly, stay positive.
There is a wide consensus that England's chances in the Vizag Test are all but over and it is only a matter of time before Virat Kohli's rampant team notches up another win at home. They can't be at fault for believing so, given that the hosts hold all the aces at the end of Day 3, being almost 300 runs ahead, with their star batsman Virat Kohli going great guns and spin maestro Ravichandran Ashwin lying in wait when the visitors come into bat on a crumbling pitch in the fourth innings.
However, no contest is over till it actually is and Alastair Cook and co. would not give up till they are beaten.
This is evident in the words of England's wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow who said after the end of Day 3: "I think it's important for us to try and make it as difficult as possible for India to score runs at a rate they want to score. The longer we can delay the amount of runs they score, puts us in a better position. We will try our hardest in the morning session to restrict the amount of runs and try to take a few wickets. Definitely it will be hard on the pitch with our bowlers."
Most importantly, as the first step, England must try to get both Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane in the first session itself. However, the Indian lower middle order comprising Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja has shown time and again that it can contribute some very useful runs and England can't rest easy even if Kohli and Rahane are dismissed early. Hence, the visitors would need to keep chipping away the wickets.
This is where England's spin trio of Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and Zafar Ansari can play a huge role. The pitch misbehaved on a number of occasions on Day 3, with some balls jumping up, while others almost rolling along the ground. If anything, now the fourth day pitch would be harder to negotiate.
Hence, it is imperative for England to restrict India's lead to not more than 400. Anything less than 400 would be an absolute bonus.
They would take heart from the fact that Cheteshwar Pujara, who had been scoring centuries almost as if it were his hobby, and who could have compounded England's misery, has been sent back to the pavilion by a James Anderson beauty.
Bairstow, who along with Ben Stokes, scored a fighting half century in the first innings that gave the England total some degree of respectability, exuded confidence when he said that Ashwin can be tackled in the fourth innings. "We will try to chase down whatever is set. We got to be still positive. At the end of the day, it's still the run chase. That's the exciting part of it, however, many that may be," Bairstow added.
Frankly speaking, anything over 350 on such a pitch that we have in Vizag, would be an uphill task to chase down, but the key for England would be to stay focused, play the Indian spinners with soft hands and importantly, stay positive. One expects them to have a bat on Day 4 and if they can play out the day without any major mishap, they can pick up the threads again on the last day.
England should take this match now, hour-by-hour and session-by-session, and not try to go into their shells prematurely, as that would invite Ashwin and Co to climb all over them.
The Edgbaston Test will be part of India's white-ball tour of England. The match will be held from 1 July.
Ravichandran Ashwin had earlier been included alongside Ravindra Jadeja in India's T20 World Cup squad with Rahul Chahar picked as the third spin option.
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