Cook sets up potential fairytale finish
It was a day which saw both sides fix an issue which has been a weak link for them throughout the series. India, who resumed the day reeling at 174 for 6, finally saw their lower order contributing which has kept them in the game. It was Ravindra Jadeja (86 not out) and Hanuma Vihari (56) who sewed up an invaluable stand of 77 for the seventh wicket which helped India to 292 in their first innings.
In reply, England, who have struggled to get runs from their top order in the series, finished the third day of the fifth and final Test at 114 for 2 with an overall lead of 154 on Sunday (September 9) at The Oval. Playing in his last game for England, Alastair Cook laboured himself to a typical stodgy unbeaten 46 while adding 52 runs for the third wicket with his successor Joe Root (29 not out).
Plays of the Day
The duke balls have been a subject of discussion in the series. They have swung and seamed throughout the series, mostly due to the conditions, but the quality of balls have left a lot to be desired. India were seemingly unhappy with the ball very early in the innings. They finally got the umpires to change it in the 24th over. But, ironically, they weren't happy with the replacement ball too and requested to have the original ball back but to no avail. The entire farce sums up the series for India. They haven't been able to ring in the right changes; often stuck in dilemma. Jadeja finally convinced the umpires to change the ball four overs later and got through the defences of Moeen Ali the next delivery.
Performer of the Day
Despite being the No. 3 bowler in Test cricket, Jadeja had to wait for the final Test to get his chance. He scalped four wickets on his return to the side and played one of his best innings in international cricket before he ran out of partners and was left stranded on 86. His innings was uncharacteristic - he showed a lot of discipline and restrained himself from playing flashy shots, which has often been the case with him while batting down the order. He farmed the strike brilliantly and added 32 runs in 55 balls for the last wicket with Jasprit Bumrah, who faced only 14 balls during the stand, to bring the first-innings deficit down to 40. His 156-ball innings was studded with 11 fours and a meaty blow over James Anderson's head which went all the way for six.
With Cook and Root, two of England's best batsmen, showing shades of their very best, India might have a long day in the field tomorrow. Anything over 250 will be tough to chase on a wearing surface. From the home side's perspective, the stage is set for Cook to have a shot at a fairytale hundred and thereby put the game out of India's grasp.