When England racked up 400 runs against India in the first innings of the Mumbai Test, they entered what has proved to be a a safe zone of sorts for them. They have never lost a Test in the subcontinent after scoring 400 runs in the first innings. They had scored 400 in Mumbai in 2006 and 2012 and had gone on to win the matches on both occasions. These statistics would sure to boost Alastair Cook and Co psychologically, as they strive to deny the hosts the chance to wrap up the series in Mumbai.
Resuming from their overnight score of 288/5, England lost Ben Stokes early, handing Ravichandran Ashwin his 23rd fifer in Test cricket. Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid followed soon after, and it looked at one point that the England innings would fold up pretty quickly, but Jos Buttler and Jake Ball had other ideas. The duo put up a stubborn resistance, accumulating a priceless 54 runs for the ninth wicket. It brought them near the psychological barrier of 400, and gave them belief that the Ashwin-Ravindra Jadeja-Jayant Yadav troika can indeed be handled.
India, however, managed to contain the Englishmen before they could really run away with the match, bowling them out bang on 400. And then Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara took the hosts to a creditable 146/1 at stumps. Vijay and Pujara make up one of the most successful batting pairs for India in recent times, and they have already added 113 runs together, and are looking set for many more.
England, many would say, surrendered some of the momentum it had after putting up 400 on the board. Barring a beauty from Moeen Ali that sneaked through the 'gate' and castled KL Rahul, the England bowlers have been blunted by the Indians so far.
But on Day 3, they would want to put up a better show. India are still 254 runs behind. Granted Vijay and Pujara are stroking the ball, and you have Virat Kohli still to come, and that India bat really deep, but a lead of 254 runs in no small lead. The pitch has already started to assist the bowlers. The delivery that dismissed Ball turned sharply after pitching and bounced more than the batsman expected. And there were deliveries that were kicking up a puff of dust.
What Rashid and Co must ensure is that they should keep at it and not lose focus. Sharp turn and variable bounce can leave even the best of batsmen all at sea, and England have the spinners who can make good use of the assistance that a third day pitch would offer. England knows very well that letting India going past their score of 400 would virtually put paid to all their chances of making a comeback in the series, and they would want to get a lead of close to 100, if not more.
If England can get the Indians out say, by tea on Day 3, and get a substantial lead, they would have given themselves a brilliant opportunity, from where they can go for the kill. England would then look to extend the lead and corner the hosts on Days 4 and 5 in the fourth innings. But for that their bowlers need to step up on Day 3.
Having scored 400, England have a psychological advantage, but if they can translate it to tangible advantage on the field remains to be seen. For starters, England will hope their spinners can keep India's batting line up under leash on Day 3.
Updated Date: Dec 09, 2016 23:00:07 IST