A see-saw battle is something that you would want. A keen contest between bat and ball is something that is sure to excite you. And day two of the third Test between India and England at Mohali provided it in ample measure, and at the end of the day, it would have been difficult to ascertain to whom the day belonged.
Thus, India won the first session having polished off the England tail after conceding a paltry 15 runs, and having reached 60/1 at lunch. They pocketed the second session too, reaching 148 for two at tea, but England clawed back post tea, thanks to some inspired bowling and fielding and indeed some indecision on the part of the Indian batsmen to claim three wickets for eight runs.
It was then that Ravichandran Ashwin emerged as the saviour for the umpteenth time and strung together a near-fifty-run partnership with captain Virat Kohli first and then an over-fifty-run partnership with Ravindra Jadeja, to afford the hosts some breathing space. India were 271/6 at the close of play on day two and in no way out of the woods. The eventful third session has thrown the match wide open and the team that grabs the initiative on the crucial day three, would have significantly bolstered their chances in the match.
England would have aimed to throttle the hosts on the day two, and would be satisfied to have done that. The good thing for the visitors is that they would still be leading going into day three, which means they have been able to keep India under a leash. Alastair Cook's men would now want to ensure that India don't end up with too big a lead, and ideally would like to restrict them to 300 or thereabouts.
Adil Rashid, England's leading spinner with three wickets, echoed the visitors' satisfaction at having had a reasonably good day at the office. "We are confident of having that belief that you can get all the best players in the world out. Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don't. At the moment it's going ok so far," Rashid said.
"... we bowled exceptionally well as a team. We stuck to our plans and we got rewards at the end of the session. They got a little partnership but you know it happens in cricket that can happen. But we will come back tomorrow and come over," the leg-spinner added.
The Mohali pitch has witnessed turn from the first day itself and while it may not be as much a rank turner as it was against South Africa, last year, it is after all, a typical Indian pitch that will crumble on days four and five. With India slated to bat last, Rashid and Co will fancy their chances.
The match is interestingly poised, with not much to choose between the sides, and the team winning day three would open up a perceptible gap ahead of their rivals. That's why day three stands to be mighty crucial and would indicate which way the Test is headed.
England ideally would want to go to stumps with a lead of 200-250 and build on the same, the following day. For that, they would have to get the four remaining Indian wickets early. It won't be easy as India's lower order batsmen - Ashwin, Jadeja and Jayant Yadav - have shown they are no pushovers. Ashwin, Jadeja and Jayant would be a threat with the ball as well, and England would have to be careful not to let India's spin trio dictate terms.
If England can carry the day on Monday, it will set the Test up for a mouth-watering finish. It boils down to how they handle Ashwin, Jadeja and Jayant with the bat and ball on day three.
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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2016 12:52:33 IST