The third day of the Nagpur Test finally saw India putting up some resistance for the first time since the Ahmedabad game. However, it was a case of too little too late for India. England were already 2-1 up in the series going into the Napur Test, and it were India who had to do all the slog work. They did well on day three, but even though Virat Kohli and M S Dhoni batted with a renewed sense of responsibility, overall India fell short even though they lost only four wickets in the day.
England’s late wicket burst on Saturday took away India’s best chance of squaring the series. Had Kohli and Dhoni batted out the day, just like VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid did at Eden Gardens in 2001, the state of the game could have been different. England would have been demotivated had they failed to pick up a single wicket on the day. That would have given India a huge psychological boost going into the fourth day of the Test, and the home side could have dominated proceedings from thereon. Instead, by losing four quick wickets towards the end of the game, India handed back the advantage to England.
The visitors can now hope of cleaning up the Indian innings before 330, and should be able to do so unless Ravichandran Ashwin comes up with another dogged knock. In contrast, had India ended the day with say five wickets down and the score reading around 300, they would have been in a much more dominant position. They could have built a significant lead of around 100 or more, which could have come in very handy on this pitch, where there is enough on offer for bowlers to make a mark.
As things stand currently, the match will turn into a second innings clash, with the first innings played the both sides being nullified. In such a scenario, only England can be the beneficiaries. They are the sidewho have the in-form batsman, and can set up a challenging fourth innings total for India. Considering the struggling Indian batting line up, even a chase of 150 could be enough for India to flounder. Unlike the Indians, England’s bowlers are also in prime form. James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar have continued to look threatening at Nagpur as well, and that doesn’t augur well for India’s fourth innings chase.
To be fair to India, Kohli and Dhoni batted exceptionally well, curbing their natural instincts to keep the hosts in the hunt. At the same time, India have played so poorly throughout the series that they needed a perfect day of Test cricket to get themselves back on track. The third day of Nagpur presented them with an opportunity. But, while they dominated England for most part of the day, India did not have the wherewithal to withstand the late onslaught by England bowlers. There is where, one feels, India lost their chance of squaring the series. There is still hope, but a bleak one.
--By A Cricket Analyst