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A bad-old Ishant performance
Only problem is, Ishant was truly off colour. Ishant was having perhaps his first ordinary Test in seven years. He was cut away for three boundaries in his first four overs. The last time he conceded more than three boundaries in a whole Test – to the cut shot – was in December 2017*. It doesn’t need GPS trackers to know he was slower in his run-up than he probably has ever been. The speeds were down too. He bowled 22 overs without a maiden, the longest an opening bowler has gone without one in England since 2002.
All bar four of Ishant’s dearer spells than this came before 2015. That he has had to be so drastically off rhythm to be reminded of those bad old days is testament to his turnaround. Those bad old days were when often he would be the only bowler fit enough to toil for long spells. Here he had Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah to pick up the slack. In an innings that Ishant and Mohammed Siraj drew a mistake once every 10 balls or slower, Bumrah and Shami kept doing so once an over.
What does the path to an India win look like?
We’re at day three. England are roughly half a billion runs ahead. Although they are eight down, they still have two batters with first-class hundreds at the crease, which is a little ridiculous. Is this Test a foregone conclusion? Or can India take these final wickets quickly, rack up like 500 in the second innings, and then hope that England forget which end of the bat to hold in the fourth innings (not an entirely impossible scenario if you’ve watched England bat recently).
The one thing that probably isn’t going to happen, though, is a rain-affected draw.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf