It may seem to be shuffling to a draw but there is so much more cricket left to be played in India’s first Investec Test against England at Trent Bridge that Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side must see immense possibilities of driving home the advantage gained over the first three days while finding ways to take that to a better conclusion.
Ishant Sharma’s spell on Friday afternoon – easily the best in the Test – when he picked up three wickets to prise the game open and Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s ability to gnaw away through the day with the patience of a spinner have made England’s critics chirp away at the home team’s attack and their bating line-up’s inclination to collapse.
The delivery that Ishant bowled to England’s best batsman, Ian Bell, caught him in two minds. By the time Bell decided to draw the bat away from the line of the ball, it had climbed enough and quickly to get the bottom of the bat on its way to Dhoni. It was the kind of delivery that would have sown the seeds of doubt in the England batsmen’s minds.
When the teams return to Trent Bridge for the fourth day’s play on Saturday, with England’s last wicket pair resuming its chase of the 105-run gap on first innings, India can draw comfort from the many positives they have had in the game. They must look to build on these and keep England pinned to the mat.
Of course, Joe Root has played a solid innings thus far, holding the second half of England’s batting with the approach of a seasoned professional. With Stuart Broad and James Anderson’s support, he has ensured that India have not opened up a big enough lead that can make a difference. Despite that, India can still control the proceedings over the weekend.
Hard as Alastair Cook and his team-mates try to ignore criticism, they will be worried about what can happen over the remaining 180 overs, even on a track that has remained placid. It is this collective state of mind that India must seek to exploit over the next two days. Dhoni and his team have put themselves in a position to do that with their patient and smart work thus far.
The Indian skipper must now encourage his top-order batsmen to show a spirit of adventure and make England squirm more. It is time for Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli to come to the party in a telling manner. You can expect to adopt defensive field-placing and bowling but if the Indian batsmen can score quickly, they can help give the Indian bowlers a few extra overs on Sunday.
It will be interesting to see what India do after they break the last-wicket partnership.