India had a memorable day against England at Mohali    IANS
India had a memorable day against England at Mohali IANS

The build-up of the third India versus England Test at Mohali had an indomitable element threatening to have a say in the final outcome. For both the teams, winning the toss was as good as pathway to victory, as both Alastair Cook and Virat Kohli looked on in anticipation of the coin landing in their favour on Saturday morning. But Cook was luckier than his counterpart, and there was no hesitation in the English captain declaring to bat first. Unfortunately for England, winning the toss and Jonny Bairstow s resilient 89 were the only two bright moments on another tough day of Test cricket. Full Cricket Scorecard: India vs England 3rd Test at Mohali

England ended the first day of the third Test in a precarious position of 268 for 8, with none of their specialist batsmen barring Bairstow and Jos Buttler to an extent troubling the scorers much. Strangely, England put on the aggressive mode early on in the game where they could have played the waiting game and consolidated their position in a must-win game in order to level the series. Instead, two of their best batsmen let them down. Cook went chasing one outside off and edged one behind off Ravichandran Ashwin s first ball in the contest, and Joe Root played a horrendous stroke to fall for 15 to Jayant Yadav.

India aided England with as many as four dropped catches, but unlike Rajkot, none of the English batsmen were ready to accept the gifts. Towards the end of the day, having already received two lifelines from Parthiv Patel, Bairstow missed a ball completely and was declared out leg-before.

England had made three changes in their bid to level the series. Chris Woakes replaced Stuart Broad; injured Zafar Ansari made way for veteran Gareth Batty and Jos Buttler made it count with a disciplined 43, having already replaced the struggling Ben Duckett. England will feel they have missed out on a golden opportunity to put India in some real pressure with a big score on the board. For now, their hopes are pinned on the tailenders to take their total past 300.

The Indians were erratic, but unlike Rajkot, they kept chipping away with wickets. There was a lot of discipline in the line and lengths that Indian bowlers sent down, but the same cannot be associated with their fielding. Playing his first Test in 8 years, Parthiv spilled two catches, but some sharp work behind the wickets helped India getting rid of Ben Stokes for cheap. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who shared three wickets between them, spilled a catch each.

For India, it was a mixed day with catches being spilled and England not being allowed to score easily. By not allowing England batsmen to settle down and score big, India have certainly diminished the chances of the touring side to get to a big score. If India manage to keep England under 300, they will have the game firmly in their control, but which way is the game swinging can only be decided after looking at how many runs do the hosts manage.

India will have to score at least 500, irrespective of the English total. The Indians can be expected to bat sometime in the first session on the second day unless England s trail frustrates them for long. The pitch remains supportive to batsmen who apply themselves, which has already been displayed by several English batsmen who got the starts but squandered their chances to go on.

For India, it will be imperative to put as many runs as possible on the board, and if they do manage to bat for long, the mountain of runs can help them to inflict a big defeat on England and take a near-unassailable lead. But India will have some worrying factors as well. Parthiv Patel will be opening and Karun Nair will have some amount of nervousness since it is his first match of the career.

England will know that they cannot fancy a lot from here. If they have to bring themselves back in the contest, they will have to stretch their first-innings total close to 300 and keep India around it when they get to bowl. There was a lot of movement off the pitch as well as in the air with the new ball, and James Anderson will be required to be at his best.

(Devarchit Varma is a senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)