At lunch today, with Smriti Mandhana back in the shed and India still a way behind the follow-on, let alone making England bat again, I tweeted that I expected England to have this Test match wrapped-up by tea time.
That wasn’t how it played-out of course – partly because Shafali Verma and Deepti Sharma came out after lunch and batted pretty comfortably; and partly because the weather, which had been hanging around all day looking menacing, finally moved in and took over.
Ultimately, we lost half a day’s play and around 50 overs out of a 400-over game. However, I’m actually not convinced it really changed anything in terms of a getting result.
The weather looks good for tomorrow, with 108 overs scheduled, so that means India have to make it through 100 overs with 9 wickets in hand, to save the match.
There is still a “sweet spot” for a manufactured result. If India were to bat fairly positively, at around 4.5+ per over, for around 60 overs tomorrow, they’d be able to set England a 5-an-over target of 200 in 40-odd overs, which you’d hope England would have a go at, and the result could then go either way.
But 4.5+ per over feels like a big ask for India’s batters, and while they were going at something like that rate this afternoon, over the course of an entire day they’d find that kind of rate hard to sustain, especially if they started to lose wickets.
Much more likely, India will go at around 2.5+ an over, but continue to lose wickets and get bowled out for around 200. This would leave England chasing about 50 – the kind of chase which the commentators will label “tricky” to make it sound exciting, but which ought (!!) really to be a formality for this highly experienced England batting line-up.
Either that, or the pitch really is dead, and India can bat out the day in peace. If you are an India fan, you wouldn’t want to entirely rule it out; but nonetheless the smart money has to be on England this evening.