Alistair Cook falls at the last as India move towards second Test win
England captain and Haseeb Hameed give tourists a glimmer of hope on final day
Alistair Cook’s stoic resistance was ended on the final ball of the fourth day in Vizag. Photograph: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
The last ball of the day swung the pendulum a long way. Alastair Cook, after 59 overs of diligent self-denial pushed across the line against Ravindra Jadeja and was lbw for a 54. Thus a brilliant, passive response to the targets of batting for five sessions or scoring 405 runs – both of which would be historic – was badly diminished.
Until then England, who have battled so hard since that self-destructive session on the second evening, had caused considerable headaches for Virat Kohli and his men. At the close of another gripping day of Test cricket India needed eight more wickets for victory; England required a much less likely 318 runs to win.
There is now a new barometer of the levels of frustration felt by a fielding side. In the past it might have amounted to some general disgruntlement with colleagues dozing in the field, with umpires, the ball, the pitch and then perhaps life in general. But in the 21st century the use of the DRS sometimes gives an indication of the mood of those toiling out in the middle.
On Sunday night a certain frustration was discernible among the Indian team in the 46th over of England’s innings. By then the tourists had 69 runs on the board, so the victory target was hardly on the horizon, but no wickets had been lost.
Haseeb Hameed had been batting calmly and deftly, stretching forward to defend against the spinners, oblivious to the fact that the maiden overs were piling up. And Cook was being Cook, ever watchful, sticking to the shots he knows, minus the sweep, which he shunned.
Jadeja bowled to the England captain outside off-stump; the ball turned and took the pad; the batsmen ran a leg-bye to discover that India were asking for a review. It was not the worst review of the series by a long chalk, but the outcome to Cook’s relief was two reds and an orange.
Next over Ravi Ashwin bowled and Cook prodded forward; the lbw appeal was rejected, whereupon Ashwin had his way and the review was sought. Once again it was tight by the umpire’s original decision was upheld. Here the Indians were trying to use the system to steal a “DRS” lbw even though the original intention of the system has always been to correct an umpire’s mistake. This was the measure of India’s frustration, which might increase since they have no more reviews available until the 81st over.
Kohli and his team must have anticipated more progress when they began bowling at 12.30 in the afternoon. They might have expected more assistance from the pitch as well. The ball has not turned as much as expected; it is the unevenness of the bounce which is most threatening. Even so the tenacity and skill of England’s opening pair was mesmerising, at least for the old-timers as opposed to the thousand of schoolkids among a crowd of 22,000.
Hameed would bat for 51 overs for his 25, which, sadly, might elongate the Baby Boycott tags. His composure and simple technique demand admiration and a touch of awe. How many other 19-year-olds of the 21st century can tolerate progress at a rate of one run every two overs? In the end he was defeated by a wicked delivery from Ashwin. A good length ball scuttled and hit him on the ankle – no reviews necessary. Then Cook, after all that effort, erred in the last over. Even so the game could still head deep into the final day.
But for Kohli India could have been seriously embarrassed on Sunday when India resumed on 98-3. Already in this series he has doubled his tally of Test runs against England. An early cover drive against Stuart Broad made it seem as if he was batting on the most unblemished track on the planet.
But if Kohli was batting like a minor deity, the rest of the Indian line-up looked distinctly mortal, especially since Broad was doing his JR Ewing impressions. One moment he was out of the series for good but now he was back on our screens causing all manner of havoc to those around him.
Ajinkya Rahane gloved a rising delivery, which popped to first slip; Ashwin edged to Bairstow as Broad reeled off eight consecutive overs on the hottest day of the match. The assumption is that Broad is a non-starter for the Mohali Test but after this there are few buts.
There is now no doubt about Adil Rashid’s place in the side, which has rarely been the case in the past. He took four wickets in a prolonged session. Wriddhiman Saha, in a drought with the bat, was defeated by Rashid’s googly and lbw, but the dismissal, which will stay longer in the mind, was that of Kohli. The Indian captain drove at a wide leg-break and edged and there was Ben Stokes taking off at first slip like an old goalkeeper, who knows that the Match of the Day cameras are in town. It was a spectacular catch and an excellent one even though the ball did not travel in his direction quite as quickly as the chances generated by Moeen Ali in the first innings.
Both Jadeja and Umesh Yadav succumbed to the leg-spinner, the former caught on the mid-wicket boundary, the latter in the armpit of Bairstow and thence into his safe gloves.
But the final pair thwarted England. The big, friendly Jayant Yadav batted serenely for the second time in the match, while Mohammed Shami’s innings was a mixture of lusty swings and quirky defence until Moeen bowled his only ball of the day, which had the batsman alertly stumped. At the time the impact of a last wicket partnership of 42 did not seem that great since the pitch was playing so many tricks. By the close of play those 42 runs felt quite important.