The series is almost in England’s grasp. They need only to bat for another three hours or so on the last day to put the match out of India’s reach and guarantee a 2-1 win. India actually helped them a bit with one of the strangest first hours one will ever see to start the fourth day. I said on day three that India should try to build a lead and the other alternative was to hit out and get to parity as quickly as possible. Instead they decided to farm the strike and went at one an over for a time. It was neither getting enough runs to put England under pressure or giving them time to bowl and was only ended when MS Dhoni inexplicably declared four runs in arrears at drinks. India had essentially taken an hour out of a Test they needed to win.
Like day three, most of the excitement today came in the last hour, but there was some interest in the afternoon this time. England batted very slowly through the start of the day, determined to keep wickets in hand. Alastair Cook eventually fell and fell to a decision just as bad as the one which disposed of him in the first innings. Both were from Kumar Dharmasena who did make some good decisions in the match, but the number of utter howlers he has made will ensure it is a match he wants to forget. It would be over-dramatic to say that his errors have ruined the match, but they are just as bad for the game as the terrible pitch. It is not possible to properly construct innings when the umpire is giving random decisions and undermines the credibility of the game.
These problems would be strongly mitigated with DRS, but India refuse to use it and one of the reasons they refuse is that they thinks it does not show respect to the umpires. But apparently no one told the Indian players. Late in the day Jonathan Trott played at one away from his body and the Indians appealed for a catch behind. There was a noise, but Dharmasena gave it not out. The Indians response to this was simply disgraceful. They surrounded Trott and the umpire and Virat Kohli was particularly loud. It was very reminiscent of the antics of Ricky Ponting and Peter Siddle at the MCG in 2010. It was utterly unacceptable behaviour; Kohli should lose a fair bit of his match fee and Dhoni should not get off either. Having DRS would not necessarily prevent scenes like that one, the 2010/11 Ashes of course did have DRS and that was what sent Ponting into his rage, but it does completely undermine the BCCI’s point about respecting the umpires.
After this things started to get ugly. Ravichandran Ashwin made one of the worst Mankading threats to Trott one will see. I have no problem with Mnkading in principle; if the batsman is trying to steal a run the bowler should be able to stop him. But Trott was not trying to steal a run; he was actually following the law perfectly. He did not leave his ground until Ashwin had started his delivery stride. That is the law, as was subsequently pointed out to me the new playing conditions allow a Mankad up until the delivery swing, but Ashwin actually went through his entire delivery motion without releasing the ball before turning around to talk to have a few more words with Trott. The ball was long since dead by this point so it would have been an utterly futile endeavour either way. Ashwin gave an odd justification for this in the press conference; he said that India were upset that Trott had hit a mistake delivery from Jadeja for four earlier in the day. But this holds little to no water; Trott had hit his four a full session, 34 overs, before the threatened Mankad and at the time even the Indians were chuckling! If they were upset about it then they had an odd way of showing it.
One gets the impression that India were letting their frustrations show as the series started to get away from them. They are very close to losing a series on home soil for the first time since 2004 and they are justifiably upset about this. But they have only themselves to blame for their predicament and lashing out at the umpires and opposition is not at all acceptable.