India’s Ravichandran Ashwin would happily play on until a winner is crowned at the World Test Championship final, but is crossing his fingers for his side on what will be the sixth and final day against New Zealand.
With two full days washed out by weather at the Ageas Bowl, further time lost to bad light and both sides favouring resolute rather than rampaging batting there was never any realistic prospects of a result being reached in the usual timeframe.
But for an occasion that has been two years in the making and many more in the planning, the International Cricket Council had already made provision for a reserve day, granting the best two red-ball sides around one last chance to find a conclusion.
With a maximum of 98 overs left it is a tall order. India conceded a first-innings lead after dismissing the Black Caps for 249 but resume 32 ahead on 64 for two, with their route to a winning position potentially hinging on the freshly arrived Virat Kohli.
For New Zealand, quick wickets are the order of the day as they look to keep a lid on any potential fourth-innings chase. With global bragging rights and a prize pot of £1.73million up for grabs, there is plenty to play for.
“There is a prize up for grabs, but nobody can control the weather,” Ashwin told BBC Radio’s Test Match Special.
“It would be nice if the game kept extending and we played to a finish but I don’t think there is scope for that. The game is pretty well poised but with some more time it would be better.
“We’ll settle for this…two good teams and a great contest going on. We’ve played for all these years and you want to see something come (from it), 98 overs is a little too few from our point of view but you take it how it comes.
“I can see lots of things happening but that is the beauty of Test cricket, you play it by the hour. That first hour is very important, if we get through it then get some runs we can really set up something for the back half of the day. If we can get the runs going we’re set up for a good finish.”
Ashwin also defended the stately scoring rates in the match, which have had more to do with exceptional bowling in helpful conditions than any lack of ambition.
“It’s been great Test cricket,” he said. “A lot of fans may think run-scoring has not been thick and fast but we lost a lot of time to weather.”
But there was a sour note with the news New Zealand players were subjected to abuse by some members of the crowd.
An International Cricket Council spokesperson said: “We received reports of abuse directed at the New Zealand players. Our security team were able to identify the culprits and they were ejected from the ground. We will not tolerate any sort of abusive behaviour in cricket.”