England’s spinners finally found their mojo as the visitors stormed back into the contest with four wickets in the second session of Day 3 at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Saturday (December 10). Joe Root took two wickets while Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali picked up a wicket apiece in an absorbing second session that saw India slip from a dominant 262 for 2 to 307 for 6 before an undefeated 41-run stand between Virat Kohli (83*) and Ravindra Jadeja (22*) helped the hosts reduce the deficit to 52 at the Tea interval.
India’s slide began in inoccous fashion when Murali Vijay, having stroked his way to a sublime 136, hit a Rashid full toss straight back at the bowler. The wicket allowed Moeen to settle into a fine rhythm bowling from around the wicket with the offie no longer having to contend with a constantly on-the-move Vijay. Kohli, who completed his half-century, early in the session, was denied easy boundaries with captain Alastair Cook happy to station a sweeper cover and strategically placed fielders inside the circle on the off-side. Run-making opportunities for his Indian counterpart were thus restricted to nudges for ones.
Karun Nair seldom looked at ease despite slapping his first delivery to deep square leg for four. Having been beaten off three successive deliveries by Rashid, he succumbed to Moeen’s change of bowling angle and was trapped in front of the stumps. The third umpire, summoned into service on Jonny Bairstow’s insistence, took a while to be sure there was no bat involved before sending the Karnataka batsman on his way for 13. Then England turned to the golden arm of Root.
Well aware of Parthiv Patel’s tendency to camp on the backfoot, the Yorkshireman tossed a ball up, inviting the drive and had the southpaw caught behind. In his next over, Root accounted for the No. 1 Test all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin, who middled a flick but had to watch in shock as Keaton Jennings at forward-short leg held on to the catch. However, Jadeja’s arrival, with India still trailing by 93 turned the tide of this constantly fluctuating contest yet again.
The left-hander signalled his intentions early by hitting a four over Root’s head and a pulled six over deep midwicket. There was going to be another counter-attack. Kohli took advantage of Rashid’s decision to go around the stumps by sweeping the leggie for two boundaries of his own. The two ensured there were no further setbacks as the teams continued to jostle for that crucial first innings lead.
Earlier in the day, Vijay silenced naysayers with his eighth Test match as India overcame a jittery start to the day’s play when Cheteshwar Pujara was bowled off the second ball of the day’s play to Jake Ball – the only wicket for a seamer in the 16 to fall so far. Vijay and Kohli’s counter-attack fetched India 101 runs in the session and put them on course for a big lead before England swung the match back post lunch.