KL Rahul fell one Short of a maiden double-hundred after leading India’s response to England’s 477 in excellent batting conditions at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. India dominated the first and third sessions of day three, thanks to two big partnerships involving Rahul: 152 for the first wicket with Parthiv Patel, and 161 for the fourth with Karun Nair. At stumps, India trailed by 86 with six wickets in hand, with Nair batting on 71. With him on 17 was M Vijay, who came in at No. 6 rather than his customary position at the TOP of the order because of a shoulder injury sustained while fielding.
Having been at the crease for more than 100 overs, Rahul fell with stumps imminent. He walked off distraught, after reaching for a loopy, wide ball from Adil Rashid and spooning a catch to cover point, but by then he had ensured India were the likeliest of the two sides to force a win over the last two days.
The draw, though, still seemed the likeliest result. It took until the 102nd over of India’s innings for England to call for their first review (another followed in the very next over; both were unsuccessful), indicating how friendly conditions were to bat in. But given the skill of India’s spinners, they may yet coax more life out of the Chepauk soil than their England counterparts.
Rahul has had a stop-start series, missing the first and third Tests with injury, and had only made a TOP score of 24 in his three previous innings. He had been out to loose shots in all three innings, and he made at least one noticeable adjustment here, standing with his feet either side of the crease against the seamers rather than outside it. Perhaps the extra time this gave him allowed him to judge his off stump better, and he was far more certain when tested in the corridor.
But his best work came against the spinners, against whom he laid down an early statement of intent, hitting Liam Dawson for sixes in the third and fifth overs of the morning. He continued to use his feet decisively thereafter, and reverse-swept with authority. Rahul’s mastery of the spinners played a big part in Rashid and Moeen Ali ending day three with a combined economy rate of 4.19 across 41 overs. Dawson, who offered more control but less of a wicket threat, bowled 23 overs, getting through more work than Alastair Cook may have wanted from his left-arm spinner.
Nair joined his Karnataka team-mate Rahul at 211 for 3, after India had lost three wickets for 59 runs. This mini-slump began before lunch, with the wicket of Parthiv. Both openers had scored freely – at a run-rate of 3.63 overall, and at 4.21 on the third morning – and had looked in no trouble, with Parthiv playing some stunning straight and on-drives, showing the full face of his bat, off Stuart Broad.
Then, having entered the 70s for the first time in his Test career, he fell in a moment of overconfidence. Having stepped out and whipped Moeen Ali over wide mid-on two balls previously, Parthiv left his crease again. This time, the ball drifted in a touch further, making him aim squarer and close his bat face. It also turned more, and looped to cover off the leading edge.—Agencies