Facing a daunting 445-run target, India were left struggling on 112/4 at stumps on the penultimate day of the third Test. When play ended on Day 4 in Southampton, Ajinkya Rahane (18*) and Rohit Sharma (6*) were fighting it out in the middle to salvage the game while England are eying a win. After being bowled out for 330 earlier in the morning session, the MS Dhoni-led side were set a stiff target by England before declaring their innings later in the second session.
Although India were 40 runs short of the follow-on target Alastair Cook chose not to enforce it and opted to bat again. Responding to the captain’s decision, the Englishmen played breezy knocks with the intent to set the tourists a formidable target. While the England captain anchored the innings, batsmen at the other end played cameos. Joe Root accelerated with a quick-fire half-century before being castled by Ravindra Jadeja. With the wicket of the middle-order batsman, England declared their innings on 205/4. The players walked off the field as the umpires decided to extend the Tea break.
Facing the mountain of runs, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan took guard with four sessions of play left in the match. And with James Anderson and Stuart Broad firing on all cylinders, the pair scraped together 26 runs before Vijay was run out. Responding to his partner’s call for a cheeky single, the opener was found short of his crease and had to return for 12. Three runs later, Cheteshwar Pujara followed him back after edging Moeen Ali to Chris Jordon in the slips.
Virat Kohli and Dhawan then joined forces in an attempt to keep the team in the reckoning. Both batsmen who haven’t been amongst runs, put together 51 runs for the third wicket until the opener was dismissed. With spinners getting purchase from the wicket, Cook had introduced Root in to the attack. Bowling off-spin, he induced an edge off the left-hand batsman and sent Dhawan back to the dressing room for 37.
Kohli then nicked Ali to Jos Buttler behind the wickets and made way for Rohit. The middle-order batsman was involved in a 23-run unbroken stand with Rahane when play ended. India will have to punch above their weight to deny England a victory.
Earlier, Anderson bounced out Dhoni and Mohammed Shami in the first quarter of the morning session to wrap-up India’s first innings for 330. The India captain was the first to return, edging the ball to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler while Shami departed fending at the short ball to become Anderson’s fifth wicket of the innings. It was Anderson’s 16th five-wicket haul in Test matches.
With the intent of adding quick runs to set India a formidable target, England kicked off their second innings. However, they did not have the best of starts with Sam Robson walking back to the pavilion as early as the seventh over of the match. Bhuvneshwar Kumar bent his back and swung the ball in search of early wickets and was successful in getting Robson nick one to Dhawan at first slip.
With the mandate clear, Ballance too took the attack to the opposition and scored freely along with his captain. He found the ropes in style during his brief stay at the crease. He drove Shami straight down the ground and in the next over slammed Rohit Sharma for six over long-off.
Ballance, who had played a sheet anchor role in the previous innings, was instead plundering runs off the Indian attack on the fourth day. Having surpassed his captain, he scored a quick 38 before falling to Jadeja. With that wicket, the players walked off for Lunch.
Pankaj Singh, reintroduced into the attack post lunch asked questions off the batsman but without success and finished his debut game without a wicket. Jadeja continuing to bowl from the other end and struck again. The left-arm spinner bowled Ian Bell for 23.
Root who then joined his skipper played a fiery knock to pile on runs. The England captain who had been scoring at a steady pace, swept Jadeja to reach his second successive fifty with a boundary. Cook held up one end while Root milked the Indian attack and helped the team pile on quick runs. The middle-order batsman smashed 56 off 41 to give England a cushion of 444 until he lost his stumps to Jadeja. Cook remained unbeaten on 70 as he declared the innings. Brief scores:Day 1: England 1st inn 247/2 in 90 overs (G Ballance 104*, A Cook 95, I Bell 16*)
Day 2: England 1st inn 569/7 decl. in 163.4 overs (I Bell 167, G Balance 156, J Buttler 85, B Kumar 3/101); India 1st inn 25/1 in 14 overs (M Vijay 11*, C Pujara 4*, J Anderson 1/14)
Day 3: India 1st inn 323/8 in 102 overs (A Rahane 54, MS Dhoni 50*, J Anderson 3/52, S Broad 3/65)
Day 4: India 1st inn 330 all out in 106.1 overs (MS Dhoni 50, J Anderson 5/53); England 2nd inn 205/4 decl. in 40.4 overs (A Cook 70*, J Root 56, R Jadeja 3/52);
India 2nd inn 112/4 in 42 overs (A Rahane 18*, R Sharma 6*, M Ali 2/33)