At the toss for the third Test, India captain Virat Kohli said that this Mohali pitch looks dry so the toss won’t matter much. The opposition captain Alastair Cook, who had won the toss and elected to bat, said that this pitch has moisture and is a typical Mohali pitch. Winning the toss was considered a big advantage for any captain and this time, Cook had it.
Since India and England landed in Mohali for the third Test of the five-match series, the talk has been about the pitch. To the naked eye, it is a dry pitch with cracks on it that are likely to break as game goes on. But after the first session on the first day, both India and England would rethink their strategies. The pitch offered little help to spinners and pacers got some swing with the new ball as the game began in Mohali.
The visiting batsmen recovered from struggle against swing, early collapse and late Indian spin attack to reach 268 for the loss of eight wickets at stumps on the first day. They will be happy with the effort after being reduced to 92/4 at Lunch.
Jonny Bairstow led the England team with 89. He was the only England batsman who did not struggle against the Indian bowlers and looked good to score another century before Jayant Yadav got his LBW at the fag end of the day. He shared two crucial half-century stands with Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler for the fifth and sixth wickets respectively.
He then batted exceptionally well with Chris Woakes to keep India at bay but his wicket gave an opening to the Indian bowlers and Umesh Yadav, with the new ball, dismissed Woakes in the penultimate over of the day.
England got some quick runs in the first hour when the ball swung and Indian pacers got the ball past the outside edge of the England openers. But Alastair Cook and Haseeb Hameed managed to survive. That was only till one delivery from Umesh shot up and hit Hameed on the gloves and lobbed to Ajinkya Rahane at gully.
After the first hour, hell broke loose for England. Jayant Yadav struck on the first ball after drinks as Joe Root played a rash shot. He was plumb in front. Seven balls later, R Ashwin, who had dropped Cook at mid-wicket, induced an edge off the first ball he bowled of the day and Cook played a loose cut shot to be out caught behind.
Mooen Ali and Jonny Bairstow tried to stabilise the innings for England but Kohli brought back Shami and he surprised Ali with a short ball. He hooked it to fine-leg. England ended the session at 92 for the loss of four wickets.
The pitch became easier to bat on as the day progressed and England batsmen played more sensible after the early collapse. But it was the innings from Bairstow that kept England in the game.
India, after a sloppy first hour which saw two drop catches and some missfields, came back and took the upper hand with four wickets. Bowlers did not get much help from the pitch but it was poor shot selection from the England batsmen that cost them their wickets.