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After four fascinating days, the odds are very much in favour of India as the Test match enters the final act. Arunabha Sengupta writes that there are several signs indicating a distinct lack of confidence in the England camp.
To try and gauge the morale in the dressing room is always akin to stepping into the realm of conjecture, but there are plenty of stark signs outlining the contrasting spirits of the two sides as they go into Day 5 of this splendid Test match.
Yesterday evening, as Murali Vijay appeared in front of the press radiating quiet, restrained confidence and Ravindra Jadeja sounded ebullient as he talked about his all-round deeds on the television, England sent in their assistant coach Paul Farbrace. Of course, Farbrace said that he expected England to win, but when asked for the reasons for his assertion, his response was tautologically inane: “You’ve got to turn up expecting your batsmen to score the runs.”
The England players were evidently in no mood to face probing questions after the gruelling day. Perhaps they required some serious regrouping; perhaps even the rigorous ‘how to face press conferences and say nothing newsworthy’ courses of modern day cricket were not enough to prepare them for the tough posers of a demanding English media; perhaps the team members were starting to find the ‘Cookie is upbeat and a great player, he will be back among runs soon’ line increasingly lame;and then there is the outside possibility that they were spooked by the ghosts of the Lagham Hotel. However, the appearance of the assistant coach does seem to reflect the gloom in the general outlook of the team.
There are plenty of factors against the England team as they go into the final day. The increasingly variable bounce of the wicket has made batting difficult, the ball is turning, there is a huge rough outside the left-hander’s off-stump where Jadeja will gleefully pitch the ball with four southpaws remaining in the batting line up. The Indian bowlers have maintained a strict line, have pitched the ball up, and given nothing away. Moeen Ali should have gone back last evening itself, the plumbest appeal for leg-before against him surprisingly turned down.The 214 runs yet to be scored look ominous indeed.
While the Indians look likely to script one of the most fascinating overseas wins in their cricketing history, there are some aspects they will be wary about. England do bat deep, even Liam Plunkett and James Anderson boasting impressive half-centuries in this series. In the recent past, the inability to get rid of the tail has been a recurrent thorn in their flesh.Finally, they will probably miss the quality spin of Ravichandran Ashwin in these conditions. The use of Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan demonstrates how handy a second spinner would have been on the final day.
As for England, they are still recovering from the quick wickets in the final session, the murderous attack launched by Jadeja’s willow, and are busy paying for their extravagance in wasting multiple new ballsby pitching short. They will be hoping for a rescue act by Moeen and Joe Root, but it will definitely need something special to script a win from this situation.
The weather forecast, seldom accurate in the last few days, predicts bright sunshine and a full day’s play.In all probability, however, the game will be decided by lunch and completed before tea.
(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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