India vs England, 2nd Test: Hosts' well-timed strikes on Day 4 put them on path to victory
Hosts India managed to rid of England's opening pair of Alastair Cook and Haseeb Hameed towards the end of Day 4 to put themselves back on path of gaining a 1-0 series lead.
Timing is something that can make a huge difference in life. Doing things at the right time is what can often be the difference between success and failure.
A prime example in this regard would be the dismissal of a set Alastair Cook at the stroke of stumps on Day 4 of the second India-England Test at Visakhapatnam. England bowled and batted their hearts out throughout the day, and yet they were pushed on the back foot at the end of the day's play thanks to that one dismissal.
It was a day that should have had the visiting players heading back to their hotel rooms in an upbeat state of mind, considering that they would derive a great amount of joy from a draw in a match in which they conceded a 200-run first innings lead. But now, Cook will be worried about the prospect of Joe Root's survival on the Day 5 pitch that is expected to be a graveyard for batsmen.
The day started with India resuming from their overnight score of 98 for 3. Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane were expected to bat a session out, and help the hosts set a target of at least 400, one that would be next to impossible to chase down on a fast deteriorating track.
While India eventually did set a target in excess of that mark — 405 to be precise — the fact that they were undone by an injured-but-spirited Stuart Broad as well as a crafty Adil Rashid before having to rely on their last wicket pair to get them past 400 tells you it wasn't exactly smooth sailing for the Indians in their second essay.
Rahane once again did not last long, getting set up by persistence on the line outside off by Broad before gloving the ball to the slips off one that kicked up to chest height. Ravichandran Ashwin managed to save himself from a horror of a decision with DRS before eventually getting the faintest of tickles to be caught behind. The pressure at this stage was starting to pile on Kohli's shoulders.
With wickets continuously tumbling at the other end, as wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha followed Ashwin back to the pavilion not long after, the Indian captain was beginning to get impatient for runs. It was that urge to get quick runs before running out of support from the other end that led to his downfall, 19 runs short of his second consecutive century.
As Kohli outstretched his arms for a drive off a full and wide delivery from Rashid, he got a leading edge to slips, where Stokes held on to his best catch at that position for the first time since Trent Bridge in 2015 (which prompted a memorable reaction from Broad).
From 117/3, the hosts collapsed to 162/9. Although the prospect of a wicket starting to play tricks did not exactly brighten the day up for the visitors, given that they were to bat next, the thought of them dominating the hosts for an entire session would have been one to relish. Except it was somewhat ruined by a heroic final wicket stand of 42 between Jayant Yadav (who has exhibited the traits of an all-rounder on debut) and Mohammed Shami.
Kohli displayed his intent to push for a win right at the start of England's second innings by introducing Ashwin and Jadeja early into the attack. What they would not have expected was a block-a-thon over the course of the next two hours, as Cook and Hameed produced masterclasses of their own in defying an attack that was breathing down their necks.
In a stand that would bring back memories of AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla's third-wicket stand of 27 off 253 balls in the Delhi Test last year, the English openers grafted 75 runs in the first 50 overs. A stand that would leave an impact on Ashwin and the rest of the Indian bowling attack for the rest of the series, even if it fetched a mere draw in this game. While Cook went for shots occasionally, Hameed's innings was one effort in the art of stonewalling that belies his tender age.
Ashwin and Jadeja, though, persisted throughout the fruitless period of three-and-a-half hours. They changed ends in order to boost their effectiveness, reviewed the umpire's decision twice within a space of a few deliveries (more so out of desperation) to burn their quota out. However, their patience reaped rewards towards the end of the day.
While Ashwin foxed the resilient Hameed with a grubber that would have gone on to his leg stump, Cook's departure in the final over of the day — getting rapped on the front pad off Jadeja's bowling while playing towards the leg side, followed by an unsuccessful review — put the hosts back in contention for going 1-0 up in the series.
As they have shown so far in the series, Cook and Co are not going to fly out of Vizag without dishing out one last fight. Despite the trickiness of the pitch, the English batsmen have shown enough potential to drag their innings to the very final session of the match. However, the final outcome of the match will come down to a test of patience between the two sides.
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