England got the wicket of Indian captain Virat Kohli pretty cheaply on Day 3 of the fifth and final Test against India, but fluffed most of their lines, letting India stroke their way to a commanding 391/4 at stumps.
After putting up nearly 500 on the board in the first innings, what England needed on Sunday was to restrict the hosts to a score of around 350, which would have given them a sizeable lead. However, what transpired was far from England's liking. If they would have heaved a sigh of relief after seeing the back of Cheteshwar Pujara, and especially Kohli, that relief was short-lived, as KL Rahul grinded them into the Chennai dust.
Rahul was terribly unlucky to have missed his double ton, but before getting out, he, along with Parthiv Patel and Karun Nair, has ensured that the momentum was wrested back from England.
Alastair Cook's boys would have desperately wanted to restrict the hosts under 350 runs, and gain a 100-plus lead, which would have been precious on deteriorating wicket. But as the match stands now, there is every chance that India would run away with a lead. India still have six wickets in hand and we have seen throughout the series that their lower order is more than capable of wielding the long handle. India have cut the first innings deficit to under 100 runs now and if they can even bat for two sessions and score 200 runs, they would put the visitors under pressure with a day-and-a-half to go.
It would be imperative for England to bowl out India as early as possible on Day 4, and not let them take a lead of beyond 50 at any cost. England would then have to bat the rest of the day on Monday and see where they stand at the end of the day. If they can get even a 130-150-run lead on Day 4, they can put on some more on the last day and declare. And then go all out in pursuit of a victory. But it's a long road ahead.
There was a similar situation in the first Test at Rajkot when England set a target of 300-odd and put the Indian batting line-up under severe pressure on the fifth day.
England would be hoping for an encore in Chennai, but with a small adjustment. In Rajkot they were thwarted by Kohli's resilience; this time they would want to do one better, so that they can salvage at least something from this Test series.
But to get to that situation, England will have to up the ante big time. As things stand, Day 4 is going to be the day that will decide the fate of this Test match. Both teams have a chance and the match can still swing either way on Monday. Who grabs the initiative on Day is the big question.
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Updated Date: Dec 19, 2016 02:05:08 IST