A old ailment resurfaced to afflict India on Day 2 of the fifth and final Test of the series against England at Chennai. As had happened many times earlier, India were not able to finish off an opposition after getting most of their top batsmen out. The England tail wagged and took their team to a very creditable 477.
Before the first Test of the ongoing series, the last time that a touring side scored 400 or more in India was Australia, way back in 2013. England have done so thrice in the same series now, completely discrediting the view that they have meekly rolled over in this series and allowed themselves to be dominated by India.
There may have been some phases of ordinary cricket by Alastair Cook and Co, but to say they were no match for India would be doing injustice to both teams. The fact that India leads 3-0 in the series is testament to quality of cricket Virat Kohli's boys have played. India have had to earn their victories, and it looks like it won't be any different in Chennai too.
Like Keaton Jennings in the previous match, Liam Dawson shone in the first Test of his career, and he along with Adil Rashid, added a valuable 108 runs for the eighth wicket. Both the batsmen scored half centuries and Dawson was not out in the end. He looks to be a bright prospect, and if nurtured well can grow into a very effective all-rounder for England.
Now, coming to what England need to do on Day 3, it would be simple to answer. The Indian openers stroked their way to 60/0 in the 20 overs they faced before stumps without much fuss, and England would want to prevent them for putting up a sizeable total on the board at all costs.
If India were to bat the whole day on Sunday and take their score near somewhere near 350 without losing too many wickets, they can push for 500 and beyond the next day. That would neutralise the advantage that England have gained by scoring a near-500 in their first essay. When both teams score big in their first innings and eat up time in the process, a result can only be possible if one of the teams falter badly in the second, as England did in Mumbai and India almost did in Rajkot.
England would not want to leave anything to chance and strike while the iron is red. If they can restrict India to 350, the England bowlers can consider it a job well done. Any lead of 100-120 runs will be invaluable. England can then pile on another say, 250 runs and set India a target of about 350 in the fourth innings on a deteriorating wicket.
England have given them the best opportunity to salvage some pride from the series by batting the way they did on day one and two. While Dawson and Rashid gave the finishing touches, credit must to given to Moeen Ali (146), Joe Root (88) and Jonny Bairstow (49) who set the ball rolling by taking the attack to the Indians.
The key for England on Day 3 would be wickets, especially that of Indian captain Kohli. They must target as big a lead as they can manage to get. Their batsmen have set the match up nicely, their bowlers must now cash in. The spinners will have to come good for England.
One of the reasons for India's dominance in this series have been their all-rounders Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav, who have given ample evidence of their 'ambidexterity'. Ali and Rashid will now have to do likewise. They have delivered with the bat, now they must deliver with the ball.
And the fielders would have to hold on to their catches. They had to pay dearly for dropping Kohli and Jayant in Mumbai and can't afford to repeat the mistakes in Chennai.
England have won most of the sessions in this Test so far. They are no longer in contention to win the series, and so have nothing to lose. They would love to end the series in a blaze of glory.
Updated Date: Dec 18, 2016 12:33:25 IST