A lot of the talk overnight was about whether England would, if the option arose, enforce the follow-on in an attempt to force victory at the Ageas Bowl. When James Anderson picked up the last two wickets finish with 5-53 on his 32nd birthday and his side a lead of 239 runs, many were critical of Alastair Cook’s decision to have a bat, given the lack of time left in the match. Cook vindicated his decision with a fine, unbeaten 70, going through the gears with technical brilliance. He was ably supported by Gary Ballance (38 from 48) and Joe Root (56 from 41) to post a formidable run chase total of 445 while importantly leaving plenty of time for his now rested bowlers to take the 10 wickets they need to win this match. Early wickets in the innings meant England tighten their stranglehold on India and will be confident of finishing the job tomorrow and levelling the series 1-1 after three matches.
If there is one man who will be leading the argument for DRS to be included in all series, it is Ballance. The Yorkshire batsman has been given out twice in this match when DRS would have overturned a blatantly incorrect decision. While umpires Rod Tucker and Marais Erasmus have both been for the most part accurate and consistent in this match, a few decisions have strengthened the calls for the review system to be used across all Test cricket. Moeen Ali also had a very good LBW turned down when replays showed it should have been given out. It isn’t just England that have seen decisions go against them, and surely some of the younger members of the Indian side will be thinking why they are not able to enjoy the same technology often taken for granted by the remaining Test match nations. It is an archaic stance by India’s board and is stunting the growth of Test cricket to the extent that it is leaving its future in danger; not to mention the fact that in a thrilling series which has been very balanced, one or two bad decisions can tarnish what has otherwise been a great series to date.
It is never an enviable task trying to fill the boots of one of your country’s finest players, but that is what faces Ali in his pursuit to be England’s answer to the questions left by Graeme Swann’s retirement. The Worcestershire off-spinner isn’t easily flustered, as his batting has shown during his fledgling England career has shown, but what he has done has quietly gone about his business when called upon by Cook. The captain himself is beginning to show faith in his bowler, and confidence such a big factor in this side. Of course conditions are certainly favourable for the spinner and many would be expecting a performance of Ali, but he has bowled with renewed vigour as the self belief that seems to reverberating through the England team. Unfortunately Chris Jordan hasn’t captured the same belief. Jordan looks dreadfully out of nick and as a bowler who likes to be in rhythm, the 40 overs he bowled while being out of the side do not look in any way enough. He has done well in the field supporting the other bowlers, but it would seem a return to Sussex and plenty of bowling will be on the cards for Jordan.
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