India are staring at a huge first-innings deficit after coming up with an ordinary batting performance on Day 3 of the first Test against England at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. England posted a mammoth first innings total of 578 and dominated the hosts with the ball to take complete control of the series opener.
Jasprit Bumrah and R Ashwin made sure England’s tail-enders did not spend more than 40 minutes after resuming from their overnight score of 555. It was always going to be difficult responding to a mammoth total on a wicket that had quite a few rough patches but India lacked the application that England batsmen, especially their captain Joe Root, showcased at Chepauk.
India finished Day 3 at 257 for 6, still trailing England’s first innings total by 321 runs. India not only have to score runs but also have to bat time if they are to save this Test, let alone clinching another come-back-from-behind victory, this time at home after the heroics in Australia. Two Chennai boys, Washington Sundar and R Ashwin, were unbeaten on 33 and 8, respectively, at the close of play as India are hoping to get closer to 378, which will help them avoid a follow-on.
Captain Kohli and vice-captain Rahane fail
Captain Virat Kohli, returning to the side after missing 3 Tests in Australia, failed to live up to expectations. His relatively leaner patch in Test cricket continues as the India skipper was dismissed for 6. Kohli did not look his fluent self as he took 48 deliveries for 11. The skipper was sent back to the pavillion when he was beaten in the air by off-spinner Dom Bess and caught at short leg.
Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, who hit a heroic hundred in Melbourne in the series against Australia, fell for 1 while trying to attack off-spinner Bess. Rahane’s lean patch against spin continues as the Mumbai batsman has been struggling to get going at home in the recent past.
The Pujara-Pant counter-attack
India were under a spot of bother at 73 for 4 before Tea on Day 3 but Rishabh Pant joined hands with Cheteshwar Pujara to steer the team out of trouble. The wicketkepeer-batsman took the attack to the England bowlers, especially targetting left-arm spinner Jack Leach who was trying to make use of the rough outside the left-hander’s off-stump.
Pant hit as many as 5 sixes and 9 boundaries for his 88-ball 91. Leach was shaken as he conceded 59 runs in his first spell of 6 overs. Pujara joined in the act as the senior pro showed his class against spinners, dancing down the track and playing off the backfoot with equal conviction.
Did You Watch – 6,6,6,6 – Rishabh Pant targets Leach
Watch what happens when @RishabhPant17 decides to take on Jack Leach. The Indian batsman hits four sixes in his three consecutive overs.
— BCCI (@BCCI) February 7, 2021
Bess jolted India once again as he got the big wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara for 73, snapping a 119-run stand for the 5th wicket. Pujara was extremely unlucky as his pull shot off the backfoot hit the short-leg fielder before popping up to Rory Burns at mid-wicket.
Pant looked to carry on with Washington Sundar but the India wicketkeeper threw it away on 91 while trying ot hit Bess out of the park. Incidentally, Leach took a fine catch to send his tormentor back to the hut.
India need to showcase a lot of grit and character and need a significantly better batting performance if they are prevent England from going 1-0 up in the 4-Test series, which is crucial to both the teams’ chances in the lead up to World Test Championship final.