India v England: Lessons learned as Cook puts the tourists in charge
India v England: Alastair Cook finally falls for 190 on day three with the tourists 193 runs ahead. Matt Cansick reports
England building lead
Resuming on 216-1, England were able to move past India’s first-innings total and build a lead of 193 by the close of play. Alastair Cook looked set for a double hundred before he was run out in unusual circumstances, avoiding Virat Kohli’s throw. Nevertheless, 190 takes his total for the series to 547 and he is well and truly leading from the front. There were significant scores down the order, but several batsmen will be disappointed not to have made more of the situation. Kevin Pietersen had looked dangerous, upping the run-rate in his knock of 54, but thankfully the momentum was picked up again by Matt Prior who reached 40 from just 46 balls by the close. Jonathan Trott was back in the runs with 87 and was out to a good ball from Ojha, while Samit Patel made a valuable 33, but Ian Bell failed again on his return to the side. He made just five before falling to Ishant Sharma, and will be under pressure from Jonny Bairstow should he get out cheaply again in this match. That, of course, depends on England batting again, and with Graeme Swann and Prior looking well set to play their natural aggressive games, a lead of 300 is not out of the question. Steven Finn’s return to the side does lengthen the tail however, and realistically the two batsmen currently at the crease represent the last chance of adding any serious runs.
Test far from over
Despite England strengthening their position in the match, a win for the tourists is far from a formality. If India are able to make an early breakthrough on day four, they will hope to clean up the tail as quickly as possible and will look to set the tourists an awkward target. Batting last on this pitch will not be easy, and the ball that removed Trott was a sign of what may be in store on the fourth and fifth days. There have been several mentions of England’s monumental collapse in Abu Dhabi against Pakistan back in January, and this fact will not be lost on India. Equally, as Geoffrey Boycott pointed out on Test Match Special, India may decide to force the issue once they begin their second innings, and this could provide an opportunity for England’s bowlers to ensure their batsmen have a low total to chase. All results are still possible, and the opening session tomorrow could go a long way to deciding the outcome of this Test. If England are still batting after lunch, particularly if Prior is still in, then they are in pole position to ensure they will not lose the match, and in turn the series. However, if Gambhir and Sehwag are set, then the last day and a half could make for some fascinating cricket.
Selection issues remain
509-6 represents a good score, but there are still question marks over one or two of the middle order batsmen for England. Patel’s 33 was undoubtedly a worthwhile contribution, but he has done little else in the series – this innings was his highest score so far – and since Monty Panesar was recalled for the second Test his contributions with the ball have been minimal. At the moment his place is relatively secure for two reasons. Firstly, England do not like making changes unless they feel they have to, and even then there has to be a strong argument for the player coming in. If Patel was dropped, it would be for an additional batsman, and it is always good to have a back-up spinner in these conditions – even with two dedicated slow bowlers in the side. Secondly, a winning formula has been found, and changes always have the potential to upset the balance of the team. Bell’s situation is slightly different in that any replacement would be like for like, either Bairstow or Eoin Morgan coming into the batting line-up. One would expect him to be given the last match of the series to find some form, but the next two series home and away to New Zealand would represent an ideal opportunity for Bairstow to stake a claim for a regular place in the side.