England Must Accept Only A Win Now Good Enough vs. India in 3rd Test

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England Must Accept Only A Win Now Good Enough vs. India in 3rd Test
Stu Forster/Getty Images

There are only so many times a side can "take the positives" from a promising, if ultimately unsuccessful performance.

There comes a time when you just have to win. For England, that time is now, with India 246 runs behind with just two first-innings wickets remaining in the third Test at the Ageas Bowl.

Just as winning can become a habit, so can forgetting how to get over the line. Alastair Cook's side have been guilty of squandering a number of opportunities during a 10-match winless Test run.

Having dominated the first three days in Southampton, will England be clinical enough to finish the job? If Tuesday's play is anything to go by, the answer is a guarded yes.

 

Senior Bowlers

James Anderson let his bowling do the talking on a largely benign pitch, swinging it both ways and hitting the deck hard. Stuart Broad, too, put the disappointment of Lord's behind him with arguably his best performance of the summer.

Perhaps piqued by captain Cook's decision to give Chris Woakes first go this morning, Broad bowled with aggression, pitched it up and reaped the rewards.

More of the same from the senior citizens will be high up on Cook's wish list for the remainder of this game and series.

 

3rd and 4th Seamers

The skipper will be hoping for a little more from his third and fourth seamers though. Chris Woakes' much-heralded "extra yard of pace" was in evidence, and the Warwickshire man found some swing and showed decent control but remained wicketless.

As did Chris Jordan. The 25-year-old was in fine fettle in the recent County Championship game against Warwickshire but appeared to have left his radar at Horsham.

England will need more from the junior seamers if they are to go on to win.

 

Spin

More wickets from Moeen Ali's golden arm would no doubt be welcomed by the home side, too.

The Worcestershire spinner struggles to "bowl dry," as Andrew Strauss might say, and failed to bowl a single maiden in 18 overs. He has a happy knack of taking wickets, though, and prompted Ajinka Rahane and Rohit Sharma into reckless dismissals.

Moeen now has 12 wickets in his first five Test appearances. Would any English specialist spinner have taken any more? Possibly not. Will he be able to bowl England to victory on a fifth-day pitch offering some help? That question could be answered shortly.

 

To Follow-on or Not to Follow-on

After runs with the bat, Cook enjoyed a decent day in the field on Tuesday. His next major decision is likely to be whether to enforce the follow-on.

If England take the two remaining Indian wickets quickly, bat again and set a target of say, 450 in three-and-a-half sessions, there's a danger that India will go into total block mode.

If sent in again, the Indians may bat more positively and score more quickly but also offer more opportunities.

Of course, given the way that India's tail has performed against England, all talk of the follow-on could be entirely academic by 11.30am on day four.

 

Cutting Edge

The first three days have gone to plan for the home side. A huge first-innings total has provided scoreboard pressure, the bowlers have enjoyed a couple of extra days' rest and gone on to take wickets.

Lacking superstar players, England are looking to build a team that is more than the sum of its individual parts. They've have shown flashes of potential this summer without putting it all together in a single match. Now is the time to deliver.

If Peter Moores is talking about "taking the positives" come Thursday evening, we'll know they've failed once again. If the champagne corks are popping, the corner may finally have been turned.

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