The Indian openers were yet to start their walk down the pavilion stairs. On the field Alastair Cook had arranged his fielders and James Anderson, after his trial run, was on top of his bowling mark. While taking each step down the slope, the uphill task ahead would have weighed on the minds of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan. England had set India a victory target of 445 but that seemed beyond them. Vijay and Dhawan would have taken field thinking of surviving the 132 overs that still remained in the game.
Breaking down the task ahead made it look less threatening. Casual calculations showed that each batsmen would need to score 40 runs for an incredible win or play 72 balls to pull off an unbelievable draw. Very early it was clear that Dhawan wasn’t told to do a Virender Sehwag and this wasn’t going to be a repeat of Chennai ‘08 where India chased down 387. This was Southampton and 445 seemed just as far as Chepauk from here.
In the space of 8 balls, forget the target, even the time for stumps on Thursday seemed light years away. Things would go from bad to worse — 26/0 would change to 29/2. As batsmen, after surviving Anderson and Stuart Broad with the new ball, kept succumbing to the off-spin of Moeen Ali or Joe Root, India found themselves in a hole at 112/4.
Now, they need 333 for a win and if they can negotiate 90 overs the game can still be drawn.
It all started when India, still on the foothills, first lost a Sherpa and then their oxygen cylinder. First Vijay was incorrect in judging and then slow in reacting to a single from the non-striker’s end. Broad’s throw from short square leg beat a lunging, but not diving, Vijay. In the next over, Pujara was to follow him back to the hut. He fell to off-spinner Moeen Ali, who was actually brought into the attack to exploit the rough outside left-hander Dhawan’s off stump.
Playing for the turn, Pujara edged a straighter one into the hands of the strapping Chris Jordan at slips. The men who India expected to play those 132 overs would watch the game from the dressing room. Now, on field were men more suited to the difficult task of taking India to 445. But both Virat Kohli and Dhawan haven’t been in that kind of form this series.
Kohli edged Ali to Joss Buttler, while Dhawan fell to Root. For the English fans, it was a perfect day. After two entertaining sessions, they got to watch a enthralling period of play that came with the promise of an early England win on the final day.
For those who had entered continued…