India 274 and 110 for 5 (Kohli 43*, Karthik 18*, Broad 2-29) need 84 runs to beat England 287 and 180 (Curran 63, Ishant 5-51, Ashwin 3-59)
Virat Kohli just refuses to lose the Edgbaston Test. He stood between England and victory for long enough to give his side a dead even chance going into what should be the final day of an absorbing Test. The third day was not short of drama: R Ashwin started the carnage, Ishant Sharma got on to one of his rolls for a second five-for in England, and then the 20-year-old Sam Curran pulled England out of abyss, with a cavalier 63, from 87 for 7 to set India 194 to get.
Kohli saw soft dismissals, Kohli saw high-quality swing bowling, Kohli was mentally and physically alert to every ball, living it to the fullest, enjoying the challenge of trying to drag a team that looks full of out-of-form batsmen across the line. India ended the day needing 84, England five wickets. Prospect of a closer final day could not have been hoped for.
England would have hoped for less drama when they began the day, looking to build on a 13-run first-innings lead. They ran into a bowling attack on a roll. Ashwin bowled through the first session, taking out Keaton Jennings and Joe Root, allowing Kohli to bowl only Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma from the other end on an overcast morning. Jennings was again done in by the dip, defending well in front of his body, allowing the ball the time to spin and take his edge. Root made a mental error, looking to play a sharp offbreak around the corner, but around the corner was a leg gully.
Ishant is a much-improved bowler from the much-maligned days of "unfortunate Ishant". You will strain to remember the last time he bowled a freebie. What he doesn't do is get those numbers in the last column because either his length is still half a metre short or he bowls too wide outside off, which means scoring runs is still a risky proposition but it is easier to leave him. Once in a while, though, he gets on an irresistible roll when every ball looks like it can get a wicket.
It began to happen just before lunch. He did so with swing away from left-hand batsmen, against the angle from round the wicket, and the indecision caused by a couple of balls holding their line against the angle into the right-hand batsmen from over the wicket. First he had David Malan caught at gully. Then, in one over, he had Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, lunch and Jos Buttler. England were seven down and only 100 ahead.
This is when Curran and Adil Rashid began to throw their bat around. Edges began to fly wide of slips, one fell just short of Shikhar Dhawan at slip, two of those - made difficult by circumstances - were dropped. And when Curran smacked Ashwin for a six and a four, Kohli went on the defensive. It was not uncommon or an outright bad move. The runs were piling with the two throwing their bat around. There is a reason why Test chases are so difficult. You don't want every edge fetching them four.
A bad-light break came at the opportune moment. It gave India that breather, broke the rhythm a little, and brought Rashid's wicket immediately. Curran, with seemingly no worry or doubt in his head, kept swinging. The edges disappeared now. It is so difficult to plan against such batsmen: he played and missed a whole Umesh Yadav over before making room and smacking Ishant over extra cover.
India finally managed to get a wicket at the other end, and then Curran edged trying to steal a single to farm the strike. By now, though, Curran had given voice to the big home crowd. England could hope now. Immediately, it turned to despair with Malan dropping his third catch of the match at second slip. This drop, though, didn't cost England much with M Vijay padding up to one that seamed in. He had added only three since the reprieve; not counting the effect of the partnerships that ensue, England had still incurred 154 as cost of drops to India's 86.
As soon as Vijay walked back, Kohli put on his helmet and began to concentrate on the game. The mental and physical reserves of the man have been immense. The second wicket fell soon after with Dhawan predictably edging behind, sending out the man who had kept England at bay all this while. James Anderson grew a leg and began to bowl those perfect outswingers with renewed vigour. Five leaves and a play and a miss in the first over.
By the time Anderson came around for his second over, Kohli showed he was judging him much better this time. He didn't drive hard but chose to push with the hands under his eyes. He was quick to pick the straight balls aiming to trap him lbw, and kept picking them into the leg side. Once in a while he unleashed the cover drive, and stood and watched as the ball hurtled to the boundary.
At the other end, though, damage continued. Stokes got KL Rahul with a near-unplayable delivery - swinging in and then seaming out - to make it 46 for 3. Ajinkya Rahane played his second soft shot of the Test, just wafting aimlessly at a wide shortish ball from Curran, to make it 63 for 4. Ashwin, promoted ahead of Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya, got a good outswinger from Anderson. At 78 for 5, with close to an hour's play left, England would have hoped to put the matter to rest on the third day itself.
However, they were not going to get past Kohli so easily. It just seemed like they were not meant to. Karthik stuck around with him to raise India's hope of a glorious win, but everybody probably knew Kohli, who has scored 30% of India's runs in Tests he has played this year, would have to come back and finish it himself on the fourth morning.