Mohali Test: Jonny Bairstow's fifty was good for England

Updated: Nov 27, 2016, 12:05 IST | Santosh Suri

Bairstow's 89 helps visitors end Day One on 268-8 after being in dire straits at 87-4 before lunch

England's Jonathan Bairstow en route his 89 on Day One of the third Test against India at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Saturday. ic/AFP
England's Jonathan Bairstow en route his 89 on Day One of the third Test against India at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Saturday. ic/AFP

Mohali: The way England's wickets tumbled in the opening session of the third Test at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium here on Saturday, it raised visions of the match finishing inside three days. However, by the close of play, the visitors had done well enough to restore the balance in the contest. That match may still not last the distance, but at least it will not be as farcical as the last Test match at this venue."

The previous Test match here between India and South Africa barely lasted three days, with the home team scoring 201 and 200 in their two innings and yet winning by 109 runs. South Africa were required to get 218, but managed exactly half on a viciously spinning track. There is little doubt that batting will get tougher on this track and getting anything above 200 for a win in the fourth innings will require a lot of skill and perseverance by the Indian batsmen.

In that context, England will be happy that they have got 268 on the board, scoring at a decent three an over and with a couple of wickets in hand. If they can go past 300 on the second morning, they can be confident of having got a total that can help them dominate the rest of the match.

Umesh Yadav celebrates the wicket of England's Chris Woakes with skipper Virat Kohli. Pic/PTI
Umesh Yadav celebrates the wicket of England's Chris Woakes with skipper Virat Kohli. Pic/PTI

India may think they have let England off the hook. They had them on the ropes after they sent back the top four England batsmen before lunch with total still under 100. With that type of start, the home team should have turned the screws and got them inside 200. But Jonny Bairstow denied India that pleasure with a fine knock of 89. Jos Buttler, the reserve wicketkeeper playing as a batsman, got a decent 43, justifying the team management's decision to include him in place of Ben Duckett.

Of course, there were no demons in the pitch for the top England batsmen to surrender their wickets. Only Haseeb Hameed received a sharp delivery from Umesh Yadav. But Joe Root, skipper Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali, played injudicious strokes too early in the innings and gave away their wickets. Root tried to flick a straight one from Jayant Yadav and missed the line to be trapped leg before.

Cook tried to cut R Ashwin and was caught behind by Parthiv Patel while Moeen hooked Mohammed Shami straight into the hands of Murali Vijay at long-leg. It was indeed poor choice of strokes that got England into early trouble. But Bairstow along with Ben Stokes, Buttler and Chris Woakes eschewed such risks to help England recover by the close.

India need to pick up the last two wickets without giving away many and then ensure a big enough lead by batting judiciously to ensure that they do not get to chase more than 200 in pursuit of victory on the fourth or fifth day. Anything above that could be very dicey.

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