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The Indian bowlers have done a remarkable job so far and will be keen to knock over the final English wickets. Arunabha Sengupta writes that the onus will be on the Indian top order to come good in unison.
After the sweltering heat of Friday, the weather gods have softened and sprinkled the restless London with a few relieving showers. There are plenty of clouds, of differing magnitude and shade, doing rounds in the sky, rendering the next few hours uncertain. As far as the forecasts stand now, the day is going to be hot and humid again, starting with the interplay of sun and clouds, with the chance of an occasional thunderstorm and torrential downpours. One can expect some stoppages in play, but till now in the Test series action in the middle has been able to keep the rains away.
The match has been a riveting contest so far, and is poised at a fascinating juncture. The scores have been relatively low, the ball has done much, and the outcome hinges much on the distance through which the last four England wickets can carry the hosts. The Indian bowlers have stuck to a superb line, length and direction, and will be keen to get rid of the remaining batsmen quickly. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma will be starting out in the morning with a ball just six overs old, and will be fancying their chances, especially if a cloud cover persists. If neither side can take a substantial lead, the intriguing tussle for the upper hand will continue in the same intense battle of attrition.
A matter of concern is perhaps the Indian top and early middle order. In all the innings so far on the tour, there has been either a collapse or the looming threat of one. The top five have not clicked in unison, and have always been propped up by the august support of the lower order. Shikhar Dhawan has been unimpressive and the biggest weapon in the batting arsenal, Virat Kohli, has not fired as yet. Irrespective of when the remaining English batsmen are dismissed, it is of paramount importance for the Indian top-order to come good in the second innings to complement the brilliant discipline of the medium pacers. The pitch still has a lot to offer the bowlers, but not as much as it did on the first morning, and the task in front of the Indian batsmen should be somewhat easier. It is a bit rather unreasonable to expect Bhuvneshwar to bail them out again and again with the willow, especially given the yeoman’s work he is putting in with the leather.
With a fair amount of rough already created on the wicket, Ravindra Jadeja may play a crucial role down the line. The England team has plenty of left-handers for him to eye the patches outside their off-stump with interest. He has already created some problems for the batsmen so far, and one expects to see more help from the wicket down the line.
The Saturday crowd should be streaming in from the city and suburbs, and the possibility of India batting for most of the day will bring the local support for the visitors in with plenty of hope and fanfare. One hopes that the contest will continue to keep them on the edge of their seats.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry.He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)
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