cricketEngland required less than half an hour on the fourth day morning to dismiss India, well-short of the score of 370 that India required to avoid follow on. But Alistair Cook chose the option of batting again, probably to keep the reins of the game in his own hand. Critics may contend that enforcing the follow on with India 239 behind would have been a better option for Cook with five sessions remaining in the test match. In the end however, Cook’s game plan proved effective as England batsmen scored briskly and left a nearly impossible 445-run target for India. In the process, Cook redeemed his own batting form yet again with 70 not out, when the declaration came. With his personal performance in the third test coupled with the impending victory for England, no one would talk about Cook’s replacement at the helm. England selectors will be a relieved lot hereafter.

Much was expected of the overnight ninth-wicket Indian pair of MS Dhoni and Mohammed Shami after their persistent play yesterday. But in a sudden anti-climax, Indian innings folded for 330 runs after the addition of just 7 runs to their previous day’s score. To begin with, Dhoni played out a maiden over from James Anderson and Stuart Broad’s next over brought 5 byes with a single to Shami. In Anderson’s next over, Dhoni perished to a pitiful top-edge without adding anything to his score of 50. Last man Pankaj Singh scored a single from Anderson’s fifth ball and yielded a maiden to Broad, who bowled the next over. Anderson wiped out the tail with the first ball of his fifth over of the day as Shami edged a short ball to Buttler. Anderson finished with 5/53 and it was a rewarding way to celebrate his 32nd birthday. It was the 16th time in his test match career that Anderson had taken 5 wickets in an innings. He collected the match ball from Buttler, raised his cap to his admirers and led the English team out of the ground to a standing ovation. England were 239 in front but Cook decided to bat again rather than letting India come on immediately.

England’s second innings had a rather slow start and they lost Robson early on. But Cook and Ballance carried on in the same way as they did in the first innings. Ballance took 18 balls for his first 3 runs but then out of sudden, he changed gear and began blasting the Indian bowlers. Debutant Pankaj Singh bowled well but remained luckless in the end with woeful match figures of 0/179. Dhoni didn’t have the slow bowlers to exploit the worn out wicket. That Rohit Sharma had to come as the first change, tells the story of India’s spin attack. Sharma was whacked on all corners and pretty soon, England began scoring at 4 runs per over. For the second time in the match, Ballance got out to a lobbed catch that missed his bat though the umpire raised his finger to Jadeja’s vociferous appeal. Cook was unperturbed as he carried on in the company of Ian Bell. After Jadeja bowled Bell round his legs, Root and Cook added 99 in 14.2 overs, during which Cook completed his second half century of the match. Root also reached his fifty off just 38 balls. Cook declared, when Root was bowled 25 minutes before tea with England score at 205/4 in the 41st over.

Beginning an impossible 445-run chase, India played with caution at the start. In a sordid mess, Murali Vijay ran himself out in trying to attempt a cheeky single. While Broad’s under-arm throw from midwicket was on target at the striker’s end, Vijay’s laziness in the sprint, stretch and grounding his bat resulted in his undoing. More than anything else, the batsman’s lack of commitment to India’s cause was shocking. Soon, India’s show of misery was evident as Cheteshwar Pujara failed to read the spin in Moeen Ali’s ball and needlessly edged to the slip.

For a change, Dhawan and Kohli looked like playing long innings but their stand proved an illusion in the end. Joe Root elicited an edge from Dhawan to one of the softest dismissals in the match. Then Moeen Ali also accounted for Virat Kohli, who edged the bowler to the keeper. At 89 for 4, Indian batting seemed in utter chaos but somehow Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma saw the day for India, who had the draw-of-stumps score of 112/4. With 333 runs still required by India, it looks like England will level the series tomorrow.