England showed some character fighting hard to save the third test by some splendid bowling and gritty batting towards the end of the day. The final day is now all about preserving 10 wickets for England having to chase an unrealistic target of 500. However, India wouldn’t be hugely disappointed even if England hold onto a draw tomorrow as they are mostly going to win a Test Series in England after 21 long years!
The start of the fourth day’s play was going to answer the big question whether Rahul Dravid would enforce the follow-on or not. Before that there was the last English wicket to be taken of the first innings which came only after 30 minutes. The pair of Chris Tremlett and Monty Panesar kept the Indians at bay for 7.1 overs. Kumble finished things with an lbw of Monty Panesar, a stubborn stay of 42 deliveries. With that wicket, Kumble overtook Glenn McGrath to become the third highest wicket taker. Tremlett collected 25 unbeaten runs. England stretched their total to 345 in 103.1 overs and thus reducing India’s lead to 319. Dravid with an unassailable lead of 1-0 decided not to enforce the follow-on and look out to pile up quick runs to give an unreachable target for England. That move backfired as India lost three quick wickets to the new ball. The new ball bowlers Jimmy Anderson and Chris Tremlett swung the ball at pace to make batting look quite tough. Even though England missed Ryan Sidebottom because of a side strain, it just didn’t matter as the Indian top order struggled.
The Indian innings began on a wrong note with Wasim Jaffer padding up to a delivery that nipped back. He was given out lbw to Anderson but the Umpire Ian Howell had just made yet another mistake as the ball hit Jaffer well over the knee roll to comfortably miss the stumps. For Jaffer, it was a duck from six balls. Dinesh Karthik was the next to go, having got a couple of full blooded shots, he was forced to nick a back of length delivery from Tremlett to the slips. England were really on the top, even entertaining thoughts of bowling out India for a paltry total when Sachin Tendulkar played onto his stumps in an attempted cover drive which was defeated by a sharp and quick inswinger. That was probably the last time, Tendulkar had batted in a Test Match in England. It was a stay of 11 balls in which he just managed to avoid a duck. At 11 for 3, India had to rethink its strategy, they had to bat out carefully to get to safety.
Skipper Rahul Dravid doesn’t need a second invitation to go into a shell which he did. The bowlers gave nothing away and Vaughan just carried on with his three pacers including Paul Collingwood. India’s only hope was Ganguly, who was getting the scoreboard moving all on his own with his sweetly timed shots. Sourav got to his fifty but couldn’t go beyond that as he became the victim of Collingwood’s harmless swing for the second time in this match. This time it was an edge to the slips. Ganguly got 57 from 68 with 9 fours out of a total of 76 for 4! After perhaps batting India out of a winning position, Rahul Dravid finally halted his sterling display, nicking Collingwood to Andrew Strauss in the slips. Dravid made 12 from as many as 96 balls wasting 16 overs that the Indian bowlers could have made use of! Normalcy was slightly restored by the pair of VVS Laxman and MS Dhoni as their partnership consisting many quick singles got India out of an ugly 89 for 5. It wasn’t that easy getting the runs as the field was well spread out and with Monty bowling a restrictive line. Dhoni got 36 from 64 with 4 fours before he tried to manufacture a forceful cut shot off Tremlett to get caught behind. The Indians declared after batting out for 58 overs making 180 for 6 to set a target of exactly 500. VVS Laxman missed out on a half century, staying unbeaten on 46 from 86 with 4 fours.
England were left to negotiate 20 overs before close of the fourth day’s play. And they did it in style with the two openers Strauss and Cook batting out the testing period. The sun just helped the pitch to play better which wasn’t the case when India had started their second innings. Now England are left to survive for 90 overs on the final day, it is going to be hard work for the Indian bowlers as the homeside may put up a tough fight. But Dravid’s team is looking comfortable to win the series whether they win or draw tomorrow.