Reported By: K Srinivas Rao
Last Updated: June 09, 2023, 23:10 IST
London, United Kingdom (UK)
Ever since this Test match began on the morning of June 7 at the Oval, no matter what time of the day, what stage of the Test match; lunch, tea or stumps; no matter what conversation, every second line spoken by anybody who’s here watching the game revolves around just two talking points.
1. Why did India not bat first?
2. Why did India not play R Ashwin?
And considering close to 70% of the Oval has been booked by Indians here in the UK or Indians who’ve travelled for this Test match, you can never get too far away within these premises without facing one of these two questions or both.
In fact, every single time there appeared a glimmer of hope on Day Three – be it the Ajinkya Rahane-Shardul Thakur partnership, some quick Australian wickets, the oohs and the aahs from the stands – the conversation would reel back that very moment to the two talking points mentioned above.
“Only if…” remained the constant nag every single time ‘hope’ soared and sank.
At stumps, Australia were 123-4 in reply to India’s first innings total of 296 all out in reply to Australia’s first innings total of 469 runs. The math now stands at Australia leading India by 296 runs and two full days of Test cricket to go.
Day Five of the Test match has rain in the weather forecast. Usually, the forecasts in this part of the world come right more often than not, and in that lies another “only if…” coming up in due time.
From overt dependency on Mohd Shami and Mohd Siraj in the first innings, to the rest of the attack sprucing itself over in the second, India began to apply better tactics by Day Three of the game.
The proceedings of this Test match wouldn’t have appeared any better by the end of Day Three if not for how the day began in the first place. Batting overnight at a score of 29 runs, Rahane walked out in the morning to get to his 50, stood alongside a valiant Shardul Thakur who contributed a fine 51, and chugged along to an excellent 89 – that included a six – to signal his comeback at the highest level, where he clearly belongs.
Those were sessions when ‘hope’ threatened ‘despair’ and made it appear like India may have a chance after all. But practically speaking, a 250-plus chase at the Oval – add to it that it’s still building up and the Aussies have six wickets left – is quite an ask to live with.
And that is why, “if only…!”