They say it is never easy to take the toss out of the equation in Indian conditions. However, the contrast in mood in the rival dressing rooms belied that notion, in what could have been England’s best chance to make a comeback.
The coin fell correctly for Alastair Cook in the morning, and they did get to 268 on a decent Mohali pitch. If the wickets column gives them a sleepless night, it would be largely due to the trio of Indian spinners, who pegged away to share five wickets, and their own poor choice of shots. (SCORECARD)
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, veteran of many a battle on this ground, told HT before the Test that bowling on the Mohali pitch requires a different mindset and skill. “It doesn’t turn here too much so you have to have two things: beat the batsman in the air and stay patient,” Harbhajan had said. (HIGHLIGHTS)
That was pretty much the mantra on Saturday. The England batsmen seemed to be playing for the turn when there was little and were done in by variations in length more than anything else. Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow were beautifully removed by Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav respectively. Yadav said later that coach Anil Kumble and skipper Virat Kohli had discussed the angles to bowl for different batsmen and the spinners stuck to the plan.
Though Ashwin ended the day with just one wicket, he was relentless in applying pressure. Former England spinner Monty Panesar had told HT that the England batsmen were struggling with the bounce and variations Ashwin produces with the SG Test ball. “He might again become Man-of-the-Series here,” Monty had said.
Ashwin kept the batsmen guessing. He beat Cook with one pitched just that shorter and the England skipper misjudged the bounce as well to nick behind stumps.
The wicket, though brown and bare, looks better than the one last year on which the India-South Africa Test ended inside three days. With just two first innings wickets left, England would feel they didn’t cash in and the prospect of facing the three spinners in their second innings will worry the dressing room.