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England is embarking on a historic pursuit to break a record by chasing 399 runs after Shubman Gill's century helped India set the target in the match.
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England is embarking on a historic pursuit to break a record by chasing 399 runs after Shubman Gill’s century helped India set the target in the match.

On Sunday evening, the coaches transporting the two teams arrived at their hotel to a big crowd cheering them in. The players were well-deserving of the support after an exciting day in the series. Shubman Gill’s third Test century delighted the locals, but England still had hope.

Gill acknowledged that his team’s chances of tying the series at 1-1 were only 70-30 at the end of day three, which reflects the strong influence of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum on both their own players and their opponents. With a target of 399, England faced the challenge of achieving their highest successful chase ever, and potentially the highest by a visiting team in India. Despite a strong start, with 67 runs scored in just 14 overs, it was still too early to rule them out completely.

In front of a large audience, although not quite a sold-out crowd as advertised outside the stadium, Stokes and his team started the day behind by 171 runs with 10 wickets left to take. Despite their inexperienced bowling attack and Joe Root’s early finger injury that limited his bowling, they showed great determination. India was dismissed for 255 runs in 78.3 overs, with their last six wickets falling for only 44 runs. Stokes did not wait for the final outcome and took charge.

Shubman Gill sweeps his way towards three figures in Visakhapatnam.

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In 2016, England tried to defend their target of 405 runs at this location by playing defensively for five sessions. Alastair Cook instructed the whole team to adopt this strategy, even though they had many aggressive players. One of them, Ben Duckett, struggled and got out without scoring after facing 16 balls, highlighting the flaw in the plan. However, in the current situation, Duckett confidently hit his second and third balls for boundaries and together with Zak Crawley, they formed a 50-run partnership in less than 11 overs.

Duckett was dismissed before the end of the game. Ravichandran Ashwin tempted him to make a bat-pad catch, which was impressively caught by local favorite Srikar Bharat in front of the stumps. However, Rehan Ahmed came out to bat next, as he had been practicing as the designated nightwatchman during the break between innings. The spirited 19-year-old ended the day with a few boundaries. Zak Crawley also walked off with him, having scored 29 runs without getting dismissed. He hit a powerful six off Kuldeep Yadav, showing England’s aggressive approach to the match.

Considering the potential for an England victory highlights the unconventional nature of this team. However, following Root and Jonny Bairstow’s impressive performance in 2022 – where they scored 378 runs at Edgbaston with only three wickets lost – Stokes did express some regret that they couldn’t have achieved more. The pitch on the third day in Visakhapatnam was also much less active than anticipated, with only a few deliveries staying low, while Gill’s confident score of 104 from 147 balls helped piece together India’s second innings.

Ben Stokes takes a diving catch to dismiss India’s Shreyas Iyer for 29 off the bowling of Tom Hartley.View image in fullscreen

Gill’s departure in the afternoon triggered India’s downfall, with Stokes taking out the leg-side for young Shoaib Bashir. This led to an unusual reverse sweep from Bashir and a review that resulted in a catch off the glove being given out. While Ahmed and Tom Hartley should be praised for their strong performance in shutting down proceedings and taking seven wickets as Test novices, much of the credit also goes to the morning session.

During the session, Anderson was exceptional, taking two wickets for only six runs in just four overs. He first bowled a beautiful inswinger that caused Rohit Sharma’s off-stump to break on his fourth ball, and then soon after, he forced Yashasvi Jaiswal to drive and get caught at slip. England’s fielding was also on point, as they managed to dismiss India’s top four batsmen before lunch, with two incredible catches. One of these was made by Stokes, who despite recently recovering from a knee operation, successfully dived and caught Shreyas Iyer’s shot towards long-off. Foakes also played a crucial role as wicketkeeper, preventing any byes and even catching a difficult low under-edge from Rajat Patidar. This was the second innings in a row where Foakes did not concede any byes.

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Gill had a few close calls on the fourth delivery, where he was able to successfully review an lbw call made by Hartley due to an inside edge that he was seemingly unaware of. Later, when Stokes questioned another appeal from Anderson, the umpire’s call went in Gill’s favor due to the height of the delivery. However, India’s previously struggling No. 3 batsman began to play well, scoring 89 runs with the help of Axar Patel. Through a combination of precise shots and occasional powerful hits, he was able to reach a century. His subdued celebration, rather than his usual bow to the crowd, indicated a sense of relief.

Stokes and Bashir came up with a plan which caused anguish when India lost their momentum due to the impressive work of Hartley and Ahmed. Patel was dismissed lbw by a delivery from Hartley that kept low, leaving only Ashwin as a strong resistance. Foakes managed to take another sharp catch as Ashwin was the last man to fall for 29. Despite India being the favored team, England has not given up and continues to fight on, even with the looming threat of Jasprit Bumrah’s dominance on day two. The determined England team refuses to give up and is still standing.

Source: theguardian.com