A bizarre fourth day at Trent Bridge concluded this evening as India reached stumps at 167-3 in their second innings, carrying a 128-run lead into tomorrow's final day.
Although much of the going on Saturday trundled along at a rather sedate pace, it was the events in the early part of Day 4 that made for quite remarkable viewing, Joe Root and James Anderson combining for an incredible 198-run stand—the highest 10th-wicket partnership in the history of Test cricket.
What started out as frustration for MS Dhoni's side quickly became something more like humiliation; Anderson crunching 17 fours on his way to 81, eclipsing his previous best of 34 and providing superb—or more importantly, unprecedented—support for Root, who cruised to an unbeaten 154.
Prior to the day's play, the biggest question seemed to centre on the possible size of India's lead by stumps on Saturday, given that just one wicket was required with the visitors already 105 runs ahead.
Indeed, at that point, the possibility of victory only seemed apparent for India, with England's brightest outlook centring on a hard-fought draw.
But after Root and Anderson's heroics, as well as a calm second innings from India, victory now seems highly unlikely for either side at Trent Bridge.
Consequently, we've examined the possible scenarios, notable statistics and relevant odds to assess the chances of a result in Nottingham on Sunday.
England's Method for Victory
It seems incredibly unlikely that Dhoni would offer England a target to chase on Day 5, given the importance of avoiding defeat in the series opener for the tourists.
England's only avenue to victory, therefore, lies in the capture of quick wickets in the morning session on Sunday. With Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara already dismissed, only Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane remain among India's specialist batsmen.
Were that pair to be removed in the opening overs of tomorrow's play, the Test would take on a vastly different complexion; the visitors five wickets down protecting a lead of roughly 150, with only the all-rounders and bowlers to come.
If Alastair Cook's men require a template, they only to look to their stunning collapse against Australia in Adelaide in 2006, when a game that had meandered along and seemed destined for a draw burst into life in the morning session of Day 5.
India's Method for Victory
As alluded to, it's difficult to envisage India pushing for victory at Trent Bridge by gamely setting a target for the hosts to chase in the final two sessions on Sunday.
But if Dhoni unpredictably pushed for a result, the responsibility would fall on Kohli, Rahane and the captain himself to make a blistering beginning with the bat in the morning session.
Currently leading by 128 runs, India would need to extend their advantage to at least 250 by lunch, scoring in the region of four-and-a-half runs per over on a sluggish surface before declaring at the interval.
Such a scenario would leave the visitors with two full sessions—or approximately 60 overs—to bowl the home side out, while still ensuring England had an incentive to actively chase the total, thereby increasing India's chances of capturing the required wickets.
The biggest issue for both teams approaching Day 5 is, of course, the difficulty of claiming wickets on the extremely barren surface on offer at Trent Bridge.
Across the four days to be completed thus far, the eight wickets that fell on Day 3 is the highest figure in the Test, indicating that England's search for quick scalps in the morning session—or India's possible push for late victims—is likely to prove extremely arduous on a pitch more reminiscent of a subcontinental strip than anything one would typically find in England.
|1st Test at Trent Bridge: Day-By-Day Summary|
Should England fail to capture the necessary early wickets, those numbers are also likely to deter Dhoni from setting a total for the hosts, given that his team would need to dismiss all 10 batsmen in just two sessions—an occurrence that is yet to happen in a full day's play during this Test.
Furthermore, totals either side of the 250 mark have been successfully chased down in Nottingham, as the following table indicates, increasing the likelihood of the Indians playing for a stalemate, rather than making a bold declaration.
|Highest Successful Fourth-Innings Chases at Trent Bridge|
Recent data also indicates that England have endured extreme difficulties in dismissing teams in the third innings of a match, suggesting that this English attack doesn't possess the firepower to blow the Indian lineup away.
|England's Bowling Record in 3rd Innings Since March 2013|
|No. of 3rd Innings||9|
|Average Runs Conceded||257.9|
|Average Wickets Taken||6.3|
Predictably, the draw remains the most likely outcome with bookmakers, according to OddsChecker.com. With both the game's path and the relevant data pointing towards a stalemate, the probability of a result at Trent Bridge is extremely low.
|1st Test Odds Heading into Day 5|
Quite simply, it's difficult to argue with those odds.