India’s Golden Chance to Bat England Out of Rajkot Test

A remarkable turnaround considering how India bowlers fared on Day 2. (BCCI Photo)

A remarkable turnaround considering how India bowlers fared on Day 2. (BCCI Photo)

A bowler short, India respond with a collective effort in Rajkot to earn crucial first innings lead. Over to the batters now!

“I don’t think it’s flustering much of us. And even if you saw, I don’t know how it looks from the outside, [but] when it was 200 for 2, I think guys were pretty relaxed. You know, in a session, there is [the chance of] four or five [wickets] that could come your way,” R Ashwin had said at the end of Day 2.

Ashwin has withdrawn from the ongoing third Test due to a family medical emergency but his words kept ringing in the ears as India dished out a collective bowling masterclass to bundle out England for 319, adding just 112 to their overnight total and handing hosts a crucial 126-run lead. England lost their last five wickets for just 20 runs and moving period of the moving day of the Test belonged to Rohit Sharma & Co.

At stumps on Day 2, the pressure was on the hosts and Ashwin’s late-night withdrawal meant they were going to be a bowler, the most experienced bowler in the squad, short. With the others looking a bit off colour in the 35 overs bowled yesterday, India, a bowler short for remainder of the Test, needed a collective effort to not allow the game to drift away. The effort happened, and how.

A controlled morning

Right from the first hour of play, India looked a different bowling unit and exercised a lot of control to get a stranglehold on England. For starters, Ben Duckett, resuming at the overnight score of 133 off 118 balls, could only add 20 runs from the 33 balls he faced this morning. The relentless Jasprit Bumrah and crafty Kuldeep Yadav gave very little away and picked two big wickets of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow before the players hydrated after an hour’s play.

It was just the kind of start India wanted but it was important to not wipe off morning’s gains by letting the guard down. Bumrah had bowled non-stop, beat the edge, found it too, on multiple occasions and bowled far better than the wickets column suggests. The chinaman carried on from one end and England, understandably, tried to put first change Mohammed Siraj under pressure. Stokes took the initiative with couple of boundaries in a single over but Siraj bounced back with tighter lines as Kuldeep continued to ask questions from the other end.

The left-armer bowled at ideal pace, extracted enough turn from the surface and made a very smart use of the googly. Not just the batters, Kuldeep made life difficult for wicketkeeper Dhruv Jurel on debut as a couple of googlies bounced more than expected and allowed little reaction time for the youngster to get his gloves into the right position. From being erratic on the second day, Kuldeep in operation on Day 3 made intelligent use of his skill-set. The morning spell of 12-1-35-2 was as good as any fifer as the wicket is still good for batting and is offering only some slow turn for the spinners.

One brings two, again

Rohit waited a long time to introduce Ravindra Jadeja into the attack as the local boy’s first over of the day was last before the Lunch break. But it was Jadeja who gave India the prized wicket of Ben Stokes when the English skipper’s big hit found Jasprit Bumrah in the deep. The wicket triggered pumped-up celebrations and the energy was so high that helmet came off Sarfaraz Khan’s head and fell on the pitch.

Before Sarfaraz and other fielders could catch a breath, Siraj struck the very next ball to send Ben Foakes back to the hut. Like Bairstow and Root earlier in the day, England lost another two in quick succession and additional three in the next six overs to stage a disappointing collapse. As India players dashed back to the dressing room to get ready for batting, another Ashwin quote from the previous day sounded so relevant in the current situation.

“How well we bat in the third innings will dictate how this Test match pans out, and it’s pretty much been the case in this Test series so far,” said Ashwin.

Bowlers have done their job, over to the batters now.

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