India leave door ajar for England after setting record 399-run target
Though the odd ball is keeping low, there doesn't seem to be any demon in the pitch and England will be backing themselves to gun down the target and take a 2-0 series lead in the series
India's questionable batting approach left the door ajar for England's bazballers to go for a record yet achievable 399-run target in the second Test in Visakhapatnam on Sunday, the hosts once again allowing their fearless opponents to come back into the game.
Like the series opener, India had the opportunity to bat the Englishmen out of the match after Shubman Gill's 104 off 147 balls but their inexplicable batting approach in the final session of third day raised the visiting team's hopes.
India ended with 255 all out in their second innings.
On expected lines, England came out attacking through openers Zak Crawley (29 batting off 50) and Ben Duckett (28) before R Ashwin had the left-hander caught in his first over.
England ended at 67 for one at stumps with Crawley and night watchman Rehan Ahmed (9 batting) in the centre, still needing for 332 runs for a famous victory.
Though the odd ball is keeping low, there doesn't seem to be any demon in the pitch and England will be backing themselves to gun down the target and take a 2-0 series lead in the series.
The West Indies getting to 395 in Bangladesh two years ago remains the highest chase recorded in Asia.
"Definitely pleased but I left a few out there. We could have done with a few more runs," Gill said after third day's play.
Gill is confident of an Indian victory in this Test.
"Not an easy wicket to bat on, you have to apply yourself. The ball is turning, hopefully we can get the ball in the right areas tomorrow.
"It's about 70-30 at the moment, the morning session is a big one. We've seen some movement for the fast bowlers, I think if we get the ball in the right areas we'll be okay," Gill said.
India, who were 227 for six at tea and led England by 370 runs, could only manage 28 runs in 14.3 overs with their long tail not wagging again.
Rather than going for strokes, the likes of R Ashiwn (29 off 61) and Jasprit Bumrah (0 off 26 balls) were happy to bat time, not helping the team's cause eventually.
In the first innings, barring double centurion Yashasvi Jaiswal no batter crossed 40 and in the second innings, the highest individual score after Gill's hundred was 45 from Axar Patel.
While James Anderson (2/29) was relentless in his opening spell, the inexperienced spin trio of Shoaib Bashir (1/58), Rehan Ahmed (3/88) and Tom Hartley (4/77) bowled the bulk of the overs in the absence of Joe Root, who did not come out to field in the last two sessions after getting hit on his right little finger.
India's bizarre tactics came after Gill overcame a lean patch to score his third Test hundred before tea.
India made 97 runs in the afternoon session courtesy an 89-run stand between Gill and Axar.
Gill stole the show with his century but Axar also looked assured batting at number six.
Gill, who had completed his half century before lunch, continued to attack the spinners.
Leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed tried the round-the-wicket tactic but it did not work as Gill stepped out to smash him for a straight six before unleashing the sweep and on-drive for back-to-back fours in the same over.
The India number three got to three figures off Bashir in the 52nd over and his celebration was rather a muted one, as if he expected a lot more consistency out of himself. He had completed his first 50 plus score in 13 innings.
With Ben Stokes going for a short mid-on and short mid-wicket, Gill was trapped into playing a reverse sweep off Bashir. The ball deflected from Gill's gloves and keeper Ben Foakes pouched an easy catch.
Closer to tea, Axar also departed after a flat ball from Hartley kept a bit low and as per replays, was crashing into the stumps.
In the morning, Anderson struck twice before Gill rode his luck to complete a much-needed half-century to take India to 130 for four at lunch.
Gill survived two close DRS calls in successive overs soon after his arrival into the middle to post his first fifty plus score in 13 innings.
The first 30 minutes of the morning session belonged to Anderson, who continues to lord over batters at 41 years of age.
The veteran pacer first removed Rohit with an unplayable ball that seamed away a touch to knock the Indian skipper's off stump in his first over of the day before getting the in-form Jaiswal caught at first slip with a full ball in his following over.
The first innings double centurion went through with the loose drive and Joe Root did the rest at first slip. Gill and Iyer, both struggling for runs, found themselves in the middle and ended up sharing an 81-run stand off 112 balls.
The India number three was tentative at the start and Anderson's accuracy made him look more vulnerable. Gill first survived a close lbw call off Tom Hartley with the TV umpire overturning the on-field decision after spotting an inside edge that the batter himself was not sure about.
In the next over, an incoming ball from Anderson thudded into Gill's knee roll and on this occasion, the umpire's call saved Gill.
It seemed that was the stroke of luck that Gill desperately needed as he grew in confidence from thereon. He stepped out for a straight six off Shoaib Bashir to get going before using is feet against the other spinners.
Iyer too played a few strokes at the other end before a moment of sheer brilliance from Stokes sent him back to the dressing room.
Seeing mid-off up, Iyer took the aerial route against Hartley and Stokes showed great athleticism to run backwards to pluck that catch out of thin air.