Almost everything went as per plans for India but the same cannot be said for Ajinkya Rahane, whose horror run continued on Sunday. However, Rishabh Pant, Shardul Thakur and the Indian tail took the team's total to 466, setting a competitive 368-run target for England, who were 77/0 at stumps.
Ajinkya Rahane endures another failure
India posted a 368-run target for England and drove themselves right out of trouble after conceding a 99-run first innings lead earlier in the match. Ajinkya Rahane, on the other hand, followed his poor first innings outing with one more poorer than it on Sunday. An 8-ball duck is all that the experienced campiagner could manage on yet another forgettable day for him.
A review saved him after an LBW appeal from Chris Woakes and England. But in cricket they say that when going through a purple patch even the mistimed shots go for boundary and if not, even the umpires can't help you. Shortly, another one from Woakes escaped the bat of the right-hander before hitting the pad, Rahane looked at Kohli and this time he found no support from his captain.
There were people who predicted that England tour could be the last for Rahane. After the highs of Australia, though majorly from a captaincy point of view, those predictions were laughable but they were made on his performance during the home Test series against the same opposition. 112 runs at an average of 18.66 in four matches is all the 33-year-old could manage. In the ongoing series, it's 109 at an average of 15.57 in 7 innings. With likes of Hanuma Vihari and Suryakumar Yadav waiting, we are uncertain about his future but almost certain of not watching him in the fifth Test
Tale of batsman Shardul Thakur and India's wagging tail
Gone are the days when Indian tailenders would get intimidated before falling like house of cards. Also, gone are those days when even a medium-pacer would teasingly smile at the lower-order India batsmen before scouting them out with fierce bouncers. To put that straight we have some figures which will easily wow any cricket fan of this gutsy Indian team.
The opening batsmen have averaged 45.53 for India in the series. The middle-order (3-6) are averaging 23.85, minutely ahead of lower-order (7-11) at 22.25.
The Australian series, particularly the Brisbane Test has fuelled what is becoming more consistent now, especially in the tough overseas condition. At Lord's Mohammed Shami and Shardul Thakur were on top of their batting game as India won handsomely by 151 runs.
On Day at The Oval, Shardul Thakur scored his second consecutive fifty of the match, partnering for 100 runs with Rishabh Pant (50). Later Umesh Yadav (25) and Jasprit Bumrah (24) accumulated very useful 36 runs together. These runs are all more important as it helped India post a 368-run target on a pitch which is not helping the bowlers a lot.
Is the 368-run target enough for England?
Statistically, England have never chased a target of 360 or more ever in their Test history. Only nine Test sides in cricket history have won chasing 368 or more. The Three Lions have never done it and in England, Australia (406/4 at Leeds on 27 July 1948) are the only side to achieve the feat.
But does that mean that India will go on to win the match? Yes, draw is highly unlikely until weather intervenes and Joe Root's men play it safe on the final day as England openers have given the hosts a good start, aggregating 77 with another 291 runs left in the 368-run target. The pitch has got very little for the pacer, in fact almost nothing after the ball loses its hardness. There is a fair bit of rough on the pitch and Ravindra Jadeja tried his best in the dying moments of the day but without any luck. Talks about Ravichandran Ashwin's exclusion will gain momentum again if things go south for India from here.
England had never won the 50-over cricket World Cup but they won in 2019. England football team had never reached the final of a Euro Cup but they did recently. So, it makes it clear that in the sporting world history and new records can be scripted any time. What's certain is that we are in for an exciting Monday.