India v England: Talking points as the tourists move towards victory
India v England: Matt Cansick takes a look at the talking points from the fourth day of the third Test in Kolkata
England close to victory
India were able to prevent England adding anything significant to their overnight score of 509-6, as both Graeme Swann and Matt Prior fell in the first two overs of the day. A first innings total of 523 all out meant that India would have to reach 207 to avoid an innings defeat, and for a time it looked like England would not have to bat again. There was a promising start from opening pair Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, and it the two batsmen made a statement of intent with some aggressive strokes in the final overs before the lunch break. However, immediately as play resumed, Swann struck with his first ball to remove Sehwag, and it was a blow from which India never really recovered – 86-0 became 122-6, and when Steven Finn snared Zaheer Khan for a duck to leave India 159-8, it seemed almost certain that England would be able to wrap up the victory before the close. A late fightback from the tail meant that India moved into a slender lead, but there is no doubt that on balance, despite a worrying morning session, this was England’s day.
Ashwin spares blushes
The fact that England’s batsmen will have to reappear for what will surely be a minimal run chase is almost entirely down to Ravichandran Ashwin. The number eight reached the close of play unbeaten on 83, and were it not for him both teams would be packing up and heading for the final Test in Nagpur. He does have a Test century against his name, versus the West Indies last year, but his innings highlighted the mistakes made by those above him in the order. Gambhir was once again guilty of running out his partner, before getting out to a poor shot to Finn. Tendulkar was unable to register another decent score after 76 in his first innings, and from there on England’s bowlers had their tails up. Ashwin however had other ideas, and in passing 50 ensured that his team avoided the humiliation of an innings defeat at home. It is surely a futile effort in the context of the match, but one would expect him to emerge on day five and attempt to complete what would be a well-deserved century before England set about reaching the target he has set for them.
Fifth day formalities
With one wicket remaining, India are just 32 runs ahead. Despite a history littered with extraordinary collapses, surely even England cannot conspire to lose the Test from this position. India look devoid of confidence, although having achieved their first aim of bowling England out quickly this morning, and subsequently made a promising start to their response, this did not look like being the case at the end of the first session. Swann’s removal of Sehwag was undoubtedly the turning point of the day, and despite Ashwin’s fightback England should be heading to Nagpur with a 2-1 series lead, something that looked almost impossible at the end of the first Test. MS Dhoni is under serious pressure to rally his troops and deliver a win that would tie the series, but the request for a pitch that would provide a result in Mumbai backfired. This may be their only option heading to the final Test, and it could present England with an opportunity to seal a resounding win that would rank alongside their dominant performance in Australia two years ago. It has been an enthralling Test match, and thankfully the series is not yet over.