CHENNAI: The Edgbaston Test is heading for a gripping end on Day 5. At a venue where no team has scored more than 283 to win a Test (there has only been two instances of teams successfully chasing 200 or above), England are 259/3 in pursuit of 378 to level the Pataudi Trophy 2-2.
On a pitch that hasn’t seen much deterioration and a forecast of the sun for the last two days and given England’s attacking approach with the bat, it was always going to come down to how much India thought would be safe. Resuming from their overnight score of 125/3, thanks to another fifty from Rishabh Pant, the visitors made 245 in their second innings. However, given the conditions and how they lost the wickets of Cheteshwar Pujara, Shreyas Iyer and Pant — all gifted their wickets in their own way — India will be hoping they haven’t left a few more runs on the pitch, especially knowing how easy runs came throughout Monday.
With England, there will always be the pressure of going for the target, but between the two sides, it is the hosts who have nothing to lose from the Test. That they will come hard at India was expected and with the sun shining brightly like never before in the Test, England openers Alex Lees and Zak Crawley got them off to an excellent start. The left-right duo raced away in conditions which didn’t offer much. Having kept Ravindra Jadeja away from bowling for 51 overs in the first innings, that India threw the ball to the left-arm spinner as early as the ninth over told its own story. With runs flowing freely, he even bowled over the wicket to right-handers.
However, the duo was unperturbed. Lees, in particular, played a fluent knock as England brought their 100 off just 120 balls. And a change of ball in the 20th over brought India back into the game. Having found very little movement up until then with the new ball, India suddenly found the nip and movement as Crawley departed after shouldering arms to Jasprit Bumrah with the ball hitting the top of the off-stump. And in the first over after tea, the stand-in captain had Ollie Pope caught behind. In the following over, Lees was run-out courtesy of a horrible mix-up with Joe Root. Suddenly, India had three wickets for the cost of just two runs. At 109/3, it looked like the visitors had their tails up.
But, this is where England showed their different side. Instead of just going about steadying their ship with a safety-first approach, Root and Jonny Bairstow were daring enough to put the pressure on Indians as early as possible. It wasn’t just mindless attacking. They played out four overs without scoring a boundary, but once they got the eye in, they kept the pressure on India as those spread-out fields and the leg-stump line from Jadeja — that was nowhere to be seen in the first innings — were on display. That the left-arm spinner still bowled only two maidens with that line over the wicket was a perfect indication of how Indians struggled to contain the run flow as England’s experienced duo brought the team’s 200 by the 46th over, maintaining a run-rate of 4.36.
At stumps, England were placed at 259/3 in 57 overs and the pitch getting flattened out, unless India gets wickets, the hosts look on course to overhaul the target without any fuss. With the second new ball still a long way out and no reverse swing on offer, India’s attack for the first time in the series looked helpless. They are known to create magic with the ball and Tuesday won’t be a bad time for it.
India 1st innings 416; England 1st Innings 284; India 2nd innings (Overnight 125/3): Pujara c Lees b Broad 66, Pant c Root b Leach 57, Iyer c Anderson b Potts 19, Jadeja b Stokes 23, Thakur c Crawley b Potts 4 , Shami c Lees b Stokes 13, Bumrah c Crawley b Stokes 7, Siraj not out 2; Extras: (b6, lb7, nb3, w3) 19; Total: (all out in 81.5 ovs) 245; FoW: 153-4, 190-5, 198-6, 207-7, 230-8, 239-6; Bowling: Anderson 19-5-46-1, Broad 16-1-58-2, Potts 17-3-50-2, Leach 12-1-28-1, Stokes 11.5-0-33-4, Root 6-1-17-0; England 2nd innings: Lees (run out) 56, Crawley 46 b Bumrah, Pope c Pant b Bumrah 0, Root (batting) 76, Bairstow (batting) 72. Extras (lb 7, nb 1, w 1) 9, Total (3 wickets, 57 ovs) 259; FoW: 1-107, 2-107, 3-109; Bowling: Bumrah 13-0-53-2, Shami 12-2-49-0, Jadeja 15-2-53-0, Siraj 10-64-0, Thakur 7-0-33-0.