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Virat Kohli departs after a well made 62 as Ben Stokes celebrates in an unusual ‘shhhhh’ way. (Courtesy: IANS)

India’s win at Headingley in 2002 is amongst the top in their vault. The conditions were hostile for batting and Sourav Ganguly sprang a surprise when he elected to bat, and went in with two spinners in conditions tailor-made for seamers. Rest as they say is history. The Sanjay Bangar-Rahul Dravid partnership, centuries from Dravid, Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, heroic spells from Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble inspired India to a series-levelling win. India won by an innings and 46 runs pushing England out of their usual home comforts at Leeds. By the way, it was Parthiv Patel’s second Test and more than 14 years later, he now plays his 21st. LIVE Cricket Scorecard: India vs England 3rd Test at Mohali.

The ongoing match at Mohali is the 25th Test between the two nations since that August 2002 day. India have won 6 since but none were innings defeat, meanwhile England have won 10 out of which 4 were win by an innings. The platform was set for India, now the No. 1 Test side, to inflict a rare innings defeat against the side that has caused them enough discomfort in recent times. India are a force at home. In fact, the last team to defeat them in a Test at home was England at Kolkata, in 2012-13. They came very close to repeating the feat at Rajkot this month, before losing an important toss at Visakhapatnam and in turn the Test.

The English anxieties were laid to rest after the toss at Mohali. An elated Michael Vaughan tweeted, “England Win the Toss .. And have levelled the Series according to the reaction in the ground .. More pressure now ..”

Contrary to Rajkot and despite India’s continued repelling palms while catch, on a placid batting surface, the Englishmen managed only 283. The bowlers had served the game to captain Virat Kohli on a platter and until the tea break on Day Two; it seemed the captain was relishing the course.

Kohli looked set to repeat a Ganguly of 2002. No not the bare-chested jersey whirling act, the reference here is Headingley, Leeds. India took tea at 148 for 2. Cheteshwar Pujara was 51 not out and Kohli batting on 40.

Till this point, Pujara’s scores in this home season read 62, 78, 87, 4, 41, 101*, 124, 18, 119, 1 and now 51*, while Kohli’s since that brilliant cameo in Kolkata against New Zealand read 45, 211, 17, 40, 49*, 167, 81 and 40*. With two of India’s in-form batsmen at crease, the plan was simple: pile up 500 and enforce an innings defeat.

One lose stroke, one excellent ball and one suicidal attempt changed the game’s course. Pujara has won laurels for his temperament and often received brickbats for the same when the strike rate took a hit. He has made a desperate attempt to raise the tempo and managed to do so with fair amount of success.

Perhaps he got carried away after the tea break when he was hunted in the trap laid by Adil Rashid. A longhop, he went for a slot over midwicket at Chris Woakes took a stunner at deep midwicket to end his vigil. No, uppish slog is not Pujara’s forte.

Ajinkya Rahane has now added a nought to his string of low scores in this series. This time it was not a poor stroke. He misread Rashid’s googly that caught him leg before.

Not all was lost. The debutant Karun Nair walked out and immediately played an assuring cover drive to announce he belonged to this stage.

The following over, the poor guy responded to his captain’s ‘yes’ call for a run before Jos Buttler’s incredible athleticism did him. Kohli stopped him midway and a direct hit ensured Nair s maiden innings lasted four balls.

Kohli stabilised the collapse with Test cricket’s No.1 all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin but he departed in a very un-Kohli style, edging Ben Stokes to Jonny Bairstow’s gloves. The English all-rounder, reprimanded for his spat with Kohli on Day One, celebrated by keeping mum and placing his palm over his lips.

204 for 6. England sniffed a lead. The dream 500 looked as bleak as Inzamam-ul-Haq’s chance to break Usain Bolt’s record.

Thankfully, Ashwin found a stable batting partner in his spin-twin Ravindra Jadeja and the duo guided the side to safety. Jadeja has three triple tons in First-Class cricket but at the international level, his willow wielding (not literally as he does it quite well) in another era would have inspired someone like Robert Louis Stevenson to draft the premise of the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It is the shade of Hyde mostly but thankfully, Jekyll took over today!

The all-rounders added an unbeaten stand of 67 to take India 12 runs close to the English total at stumps on Day Two. There were some exquisite strokes by both these men. While Jadeja’s timing and placement in his 59-ball 31 were good to watch, Ashwin 57 not out transported us to the good old VVS Laxman days.

Arunabha Sengupta, our chief cricket writer, wrote on Facebook, “First the cover drive to 50. Then the straight drive. Both off Anderson.

Ashwin is a delightful batsman to watch and a damn good one. One of the three best all-rounders ever produced by India. Perhaps will end up as the best ever, perhaps not … we have to wait and see.”

That sums it up.


Between all this joys, the agony remains that India have lost a golden chance to inflict an innings defeat against a hostile opposition. The dramatic collapse triggered serious concerns and the advantage was lost. With India batting last on a track expected to turn, Kohli’s men will have to apply themselves very well in order to win this contest against a never-giving up English side.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer, strategist, entrepreneur, philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully [Twitter] and rivu7 [Facebook].)