Whatever pans out on the final day of the fourth Test between India and England in Mumbai should do little to prevent the hosts from clinching the Anthony De Mello Trophy, unless some miracle unfolds itself on Monday.
The pendulum had steadily been swinging in India's favour since the second day, after England had been bowled out for a competitive first innings score of 400. That Virat Kohli and Jayant Yadav toyed around with a defanged English attack to tick one milestone after another while forging a memorable partnership evaporated any hopes that Alastair Cook-led England had of retaining the trophy.
Not to mention the tumble of wickets in the latter half of the fourth day, which saw the departure of an in-form Joe Root for 77, just when the Yorkshireman was looking set to rival Kohli with a special innings of his own. While the range of strokes that he executed were bold — opting for the sweeps and the reverse-sweeps in particular — his departure was perhaps the most painful blow dealt to the visitors.
Full credit once again to the Indian spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant for not only extracting the odd bounce and extra turn that kept the opposition batsmen on their toes for the most part, but also for their vocal approach in the form of aggressive appealing that exerted pressure on the batsmen as well as on the umpires (with Bruce Oxenford committing a couple of howlers as a result).
Even though the hosts have just four more wickets to grab to go 3-0 up with the Chennai fixture left, there still is work to be done on the final day, and there will be a bit of sweating given the quality of batsmen they are to face.
Captain Cook sent pacer Jake Ball out as the nightwatchman after Ben Stokes' dismissal, and the former preserved his wicket till the very last over of Day 4, when he got the faintest of edges off Ashwin's bowling at the stroke of stumps. From the visitors' perspective, Ball ended up protecting Jos Buttler's wicket for the final day — a crucial factor in their strategy towards salvaging a draw, however remote the possibility.
For Kohli's gang, breaking this partnership will perhaps be their biggest stride forward towards victory. While the remainder of the visitors' batting order are handy with the willow, they will not be perceived as a threat to the Indian spinners the way the Jonny Bairstow-Buttler pair will. Get them, and get the match, is what the hosts will bear in mind on the final day.
With another 33.2 overs to go before the availability of the second new ball, the Indian skipper is likely to start the proceedings off with Ashwin and Jadeja, before bringing Jayant into the mix shortly after. The pitch is creating enough tricks by now to test the best of batsmen in the world, and all the hosts need to nurture from this point onward is patience, which eventually will yield the results in India's favour. Given the way Kohli has led his side so far, and the temperament shown by his bowlers, a deviation from status quo doesn't look in order.
The Indian fans will be eager for the Indian team to given them a reason to cheer on what normally is perceived as the worst day of the week. With everything appearing set in their favour at this point, the hosts will only have themselves to blame if they fail to deliver in that capacity.
Updated Date: Dec 11, 2016 22:24:39 IST