Resuming their second innings on 114/0 and ahead by 163 runs, England are in control of the first Test against England at Rajkot as we head into play on the final day.
A draw looks like the most likely result, but a brave declaration from English captain Alastair Cook could make things interesting.
India, on the other hand, will attempt to sneak back into the game with some quick wickets early on day five.
Haseeb Hameed had played just 20 first-class matches before he was drafted into the national team. That is 20 competitive matches in all; not a single T20 or List A match, just 20 first-class outings.
For the England management to be enamoured by a 19-year-old who hasn’t even played two full seasons in the domestic circuit could mean two things – either the management is desperate for a batsman or Hameed is a special talent.
After watching the young Lancastrian bat in the first Test against India in Rajkot, many viewers are understanding why England pushed a teenager into the cauldron of a five-match Test series in India. It’s because Hameed looks like he has what it takes to make it big on the international stage.
Hameed made 31 in the first innings and was unbeaten on 62 overnight as the visitors gained a substantial lead in Rajkot. Hameed hasn’t played any extravagant shots or taken the attack to the opposition and it is this composure that is astonishing.
India are the No1 Test side in the world and also have the top-ranked bowler – Ravi Ashwin – in their attack. The wickets in India are generally tailor-made to aid finger spinners and the challenge is huge even for the best of batsmen.
Many world-class batsmen have come to India and gone back with their confidence shattered, Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson being the latest as he managed just 135 runs in four innings in the recently concluded series which his team lost 3-0.
Simply put, India can be a nightmare for visiting batsmen.
For Hameed, the task was even tougher as there is no way he would have had considerable practice against menacing spinners on dusty tracks. What he has is temperament and confidence in his abilities and that, more than anything, is what made captain Alastair Cook state that he is here to stay. It is also what forced Stuart
Broad to call up Cook almost immediately and talk about Hameed after the England pacer had a bowl at him last season.
Hameed biggest asset is that he has time to play his shots. When a batsman is not hurried into his strokes, it shows he has many aspects of batting under control.
Only those whose back lift, trigger movement and head alignment are synchronised can play shots without extravagance. The last England batsman to show such composure at a young age was Joe Root and before that, arguably, Cook.
That Hameed is an opener makes the simplicity of his batting a priceless commodity. He is the tenth opener England are trying out since Andrew Strauss called it a day. I feel England have found a player who is the real deal, a batsman who can dictate the pace of the game.
However, one must remember Hameed has only passed the Rajkot Test. Pitches in the following four matches won’t be near as flat as the one in the opening game. India will surely dish out tracks that will see spin from the first two days and that’s where Hameed’s technique will be really tested. And what’s more, India will target the youngster knowing that he can’t be brushed aside as just another touring player.
I am certain Indian spinners will work overtime to formulate plans for Hameed and the rest of the England batsmen. But looking at Hameed, I feel he will put up a good fight irrespective of the number of runs he scores and maybe even give the spinners a tough time.
And that will be the biggest positive for England as they look to the future.
Indian opening batsman Murali Vijay feels India has the edge going into the final day of the first Test against England at Rajkot. Vijay’s comments come despite the hosts being 163 runs in deficit and England with all 10 second innings wickets in hand.
The Tamil Nadu batsman is of the opinion that a few wickets in the morning session on Sunday can turn the match on its head. He also mentioned that India will look to win if they get a reasonable target on day five.
“It’s a pretty good wicket, [though it has] gone slower. There’s a lot of assistance to the spinners now. Hopefully, we can put some pressure in the morning session get some wickets and you never know,” said Vijay.
“Definitely, we have the edge. We have got closer to their target. We still have a chance, you never know. If in the morning session we get 3-4 quick wickets, in the last session we can score 200 runs and go for it. A very interesting game is there.”
Vijay scored his seventh Test century on Friday, top scoring for the Indians in their first innings with 126. He looked at his fluent best, slamming nine fours and four sixes during his knock, before being dismissed by Adil Rashid towards the end of day three.
Balance is Vijay's middle name. Exemplary. Take a bow. 😊🙏👏 #INDvENG— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) November 11, 2016
When asked if he was thinking about England’s declaration, Vijay stated that it wasn’t on his mind. He also praised the Indian batting performance, especially the contributions from Ravichandran Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha down the order.
“I am not thinking anything like that [declaration] as long as we take wickets. That’s our main aim rather than waiting for what England will do. We could have gone ahead of them. Ifs and buts are there, but it’s been very good [batting performance],” he said.
Vijay added that Ashwin and Saha’s partnership “was definitely crucial.”
“They have been doing this job for a while now,” he added. “Good to see Saha and Ashwin putting up a vital partnership. Every time we have been in tricky situation, they have got us out.”