Grit, tenacity and determination earned them a respectable draw in Sydney. Passion and fearlessness helped them prevail over the toughest of situations at the Brisbane Gabba and stun Australia to clinch the series.
Will India be able to put on a final-day defiance for the third time in a row and turn the heat on England?
Joe Root’s team, which has held the upper hand for most part of the first Test, needs nine more wickets to win; India — 39 for one at stumps on the penultimate day — require 381 more to go one up in the series on Day V at Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Of course, India have every reason to feel confident of a win, or at the very least saving the game, but will need to be careful regarding how the wicket behaves on Tuesday. They will have to watch out for Dom Bess and Jack Leach, who bowled a fine delivery to clean up Rohit Sharma towards close of play on Monday.
Virat Kohli and his men could also draw inspiration from the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led side’s successful run chase of 387 at the same venue against the same opposition — a feat it achieved back in 2008, recording a six-wicket win.
Right through the day, there were occasions when spinners of either side created problems for batsmen. It started with left-armer Leach getting one to bounce awkwardly that resulted in the dismissal of Ravichandran Ashwin after India resumed on 257 for six in their first innings.
Ashwin then made the most of the fourth day wicket, striking off the very first ball of the opposition’s second essay — being only the third spinner to do so in Test cricket — when Rory Burns gave catching practice to Ajinkya Rahane at slip. Bowling a near-perfect length, Ashwin (six for 61) took five more wickets that helped restrict England to 178 in their second innings, setting India a target of 420 after bowling the hosts out for 337.
Ishant Sharma, reaching the 300-wicket milestone after trapping Dan Lawrence leg-before, and Jasprit Bumrah got the ball to reverse a fair amount with some of the deliveries keeping low as well.
It won’t be surprising if the ball does stranger things on the deciding day, so India would hope overnight batsmen Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara get them off to a solid start before the rest of the batting line-up can think of whether to go for the target or play for a draw.
England made no change in their batting order, but captain Root’s approach was quite clear: score quick runs and get India in during the day’s last session itself. But after Root and Ollie Pope’s dismissal, England’s strategy was baffling to say the least as Jos Buttler and Bess looked keen on survival instead of trying for quick runs. And it continued that way till the end.
Were England fearful of Rishabh Pant, considering his counter-attack in the first innings, as well as Washington Sundar (85 not out), who was nonchalant in his defiance?
“It’s not a straightforward pitch to just go and be reckless in trying to score quick runs. It’s the first game of the series, where we have got off to a good start and we didn’t really want to give India a chance to win,” said fast bowling consultant Jon Lewis, explaining the thoughts in the English camp.