This is my account of day four in Chennai, an intriguing day in which we saw two sides of Root the captain and parts of three of the games four innings.
INDIAN FIRST INNINGS
The day started well for India, with Sundar and Ashwin both playing well, but when Ashwin fell to Leach that opened up the tail, and although Sundar continued to play well the remaining wickets fell fairly quickly. Leach got Shahbaz Nadeem, and then Anderson claimed Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. Sundar was left unbeaten with 85, in an Indian score of 337 all out.
ENGLAND 2ND INNINGS
England chose not to enforce the follow on, opting to leave India a fourth innings chase and rest their bowlers, a correct call as far as I am concerned. They batted well for a time, although losing wickets regularly, an occupational hazard of looking for quick runs, and at tea were 119-5, a lead of 360 overall. I could understand why Root declined to declare at that point, but England’s post tea batting was inexplicable, as was Root’s approach near the end of the England second innings. When Buttler was dislodged, ending a useful if curious partnership between him and Bess, who had most of the strike and signally failed to up the tempo, the declaration seemed virtually compulsory, but Root kept England going with Bess and the tail. Even after Bess fell Anderson was sent out to join Leach, so we briefly had the bizarre sight of England, over 400 to the good, having nos 10 and 11 together at the crease rather than declaring and getting stuck into India’s second innings. Anderson fell second ball, giving Ashwin his sixth wicket of the innings, ninth of the match and 386th of his 78 match test career. Ishant Sharma also took his 300th test wicket during the England innings, and among Indian pacers only Zaheer Khan (311) and Kapil Dev (434) have taken more. This all left India needing 420, a record 4th innings chase if successful, and England needing ten wickets.
INDIA 2ND INNINGS
India started fast, though Root did well to entrust the new ball to Jack Leach on a surface taking spin, and it was a good ball from Leach that dismissed Rohit Sharma, who with two poor scores and horrendous dropped catch while in the field has had a shocking match. Pujara joined Shubman Gill and they saw India through to the close at 39-1, meaning that India need 381 tomorrow and England need nine wickets. England, Root’s unwillingness to declare notwithstanding, are still very much in the box seat, and should take the nine wickets they need tomorrow. If India wriggle of the hook then Root’s tactics in the later stages of the England second innings will undoubtedly be in the spotlight and rightly so. This is a final day not to be missed. For people in the UK there is live TV coverage on Channel Four, live radio commentary on talksport2, the TMS cricket social on radio five live sports extra and of course updates on cricinfo.com as well – I will listen to the live commentary and have a cricinfo tab open for extra detail. This match, the extraordinary game in Chittagong that I mentioned in yesterday’s post and the game in Rawalpindi between Pakistan and South Africa which ended today in a 95 run defeat for the visitors, who lost their last seven wickets very quickly, a collapse which started with Markram and De Kock going in successive balls and then Bavuma who had shared a good stand with Markram falling very shortly after, have all shown that test cricket is doing very nicely thank you.
The snow that we have been forecast for a few days arrived in northwest Norfolk this morning, and dominates my usual sign off…