England have set up the possibility of escaping from this second Test with a draw after defying India’s bowlers for much of this fourth day.
The equation for Alastair Cook’s side is simple. After reaching stumps on 87 for two, they must now bat out a minimum of another 90 overs on the final day to maintain parity in this series ahead of the Third Test in Mohali that starts on Saturday.
However, that task will made much harder by the loss of Cook, lbw to Ravindra Jadeja, to the last ball of the day. Cook had batted for 189 balls, spanning three hours and 41 minutes, for his 54 runs.
With Joe Root still at the crease unbeaten on five and plenty of batting still to come, avoiding defeat is not an impossibly for England.
Yet on a final-day pitch that is giving India’s spinners more and more assistance it will still be some ask, especially without their captain.
England have been behind in this game ever since they conceded a first-innings deficit of 200. They were then set a notional target of 405 to win after bowling India out for 204 in their second innings.
That they managed to dismiss India, who had begun the day on 98 for three, inside a session says much about England’s character.
So too did the way Cook and opening partner Haseeb Hameed then held firm for 50 overs to raise the possibility of a great escape.
England were never interested in trying to pursue what would be a record run chase in Asia.
But the way Cook and Hameed dug in, scoring at 1.49 runs an over during their 75-run opening stand, at least kept alive their side’s chances of holding out for a draw.
There is, of course, precedent for such a result. England have become the great escapologists of international cricket over the years, pulling off thrilling against-the-odds draws on the final day of Tests in Cardiff during the 2009 Ashes, Centurion and Cape Town on the 2009-10 tour of South Africa and against New Zealand at Auckland in 2013.
The last of those saw England bat out 143 overs to somehow draw the series 0-0.
However, a more relevant example would be Kandy in 2003, when England survived 140 overs with just seven wickets down to save the Test.
There was a near miss, too, in Dubai last year, a match in which eight of this team were playing.
Needing to bat out 144 overs to save the game, England fell just 39 balls short of a miracle escape.
Cook and his players will also be mindful South Africa batted for 143 overs in their final Test against India at Delhi last December and still lost.
England may fall short here, too, but at least they have given themselves a shot at something that seemed an impossibility at the start of the fourth afternoon.
For that they can thank a brilliantly stoic opening stand that was only broken in the final hour when Hameed was trapped lbw by a Ravichandran Ashwin delivery that stayed horribly low. The teenager had made 25 in 144 balls, an innings spanning three hours and eight minutes.
Cook could have gone before then, surviving two India reviews in successive reviews. The second one of which – lbw against Ashwin – was hitting leg stump but England’s captain survived on an umpires’ call despite the fact Kumar Dharmasena had only given it not out because he thought Cook had hit it. Virat Kohli, India’s captain, was visibly enraged.
Cook, though, happily accepted the reprieve and went on to post his 53rd Test half-century, in 172 balls, to increase the home side’s frustration.
That was eased though right at the last, Cook’s review this time proving in vain.
Jonny Bairstow had spoken of his pride at the fight shown by England the third day, which finished with India leading by 298.
That fight was in evidence again from the very start of this fourth day when England took three more wickets in the first hour thanks to a superb spell from Stuart Broad.
The fast bowler is struggling with an injury to his right foot but, after dismissing openers Murali Vijay and Lokesh Rahul the previous evening, he went through the pain barrier again this morning to collect two more Indian scalps.
Ajinkya Rahane, on 26, was the first, when he fended a delivery that reared up at him off the pitch to Cook at slip.
Ashwin, deceived by a leg-cutter and sending a thin edge to Bairstow behind the stumps, was next.
India were now 127 for five and although Broad failed to get his first five-wicket haul in India his eight-over spell, during which he collected two wickets for 27 runs, was arguably the best he has ever bowled on the sub-continent.
Before this, the 30-year-old had never taken more than one wicket in an innings in India. Indeed, in his four previous Tests here he had taken four for 446.
India lost their sixth wicket inside the first hour when Adil Rashid trapped Wriddhiman Saha lbw.
However, the big wicket of Kohli was still needed for England to make life uncomfortable for the hosts. Kohli, who scored a fine 167 in the first innings, was unbeaten on 56 overnight and he had advanced to 81 by the time he fell victim to a brilliant catch by Ben Stokes at slip.
Kohli cut Rashid but the turn saw him only edge the ball at speed towards Stokes, who brilliantly seized the chance one-handed diving to his right.
England’s hopes of chasing fewer than 400 were raised when Rashid dismissed Jadeja, caught at deep midwicket by Moeen Ali, and Umesh Yadav, edging behind, to reduce India to 162 for nine.
But a 42-run last-wicket stand between Mohammed Shami and Jayant Yadav took the hosts’ lead past 400 before Moeen, having Shami stumped, wrapped up the innings.
England then started their hard work with the bat, an effort that even if it does not save the game should be applauded for its sheer guts.Reuse content