It was one of the most chaotic days of Test cricket ever but by shortly after tea on day two in Ahmedabad England had lost a second successive match to India and were contemplating the fact they can no longer reach the inaugural World Test Championship final.
On a day of utter madness, England were given hope by a session in which they took seven Indian wickets, including five for eight from skipper Joe Root, but their own batting failures came back to bite them on an unpredictable surface as they were skittled out for 81 in the second innings.
India wrapped up a 10-wicket win by quickly knocking off the 49 runs they needed at the end of a breathless period of play after which there will be countless questions over the quality of batting but considerably more about the surface prepared for this match.
Resuming on 91 for 3, India soon found the going tough as the pitch played more likely a day four or day five surface than one on which there had been only 81.4 overs played before the morning session began. With each Indian wicket that fell, the prospect of England batting on the same surface became ever more torturous.
After Root mopped up the Indian tail with his part-time spin, it felt inevitable that the home side, with the likes of Ravi Ashwin and Axar Patel in their ranks, would make hay. “I think it sums the wicket up slightly if I’m getting five wickets on there,” quipped Root afterwards, and he certainly wasn’t wrong.
England did themselves no favours with the bat though. Zak Crawley went first ball playing down the wrong line and Jonny Bairstow was initially given out one ball later playing all around a Patel turner which thumped into his chest guard. While DRS showed the ball was missing, there was little reprieve for the Yorkshireman, who was bowled out next ball to end his return to the side with a pair.
From there it didn’t get much better. Only Root (19), Ben Stokes (25) and Ollie Pope (12) reached double figures as the tourists lasted only 30.4 overs second time around. In total they had lasted 79.2 overs for their 20 wickets in the match, and Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill soon wrapped up a win which gives the home side a 2-1 lead going into the final test next Thursday.
Questions must be asked about how England looked at this pitch and thought it wise to go into the match with Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer and Stokes in a four-pronged seam attack with Jack Leach as their only front-line spin option. But surely nobody could have foreseen that it would deteriorate to such an extent that the match would be done before the second day was out.
Pitch aside, England have a lot to learn from this Third Test. They need to be braver with their selection when it comes to meeting the needs of the conditions, and there has to be some hard graft it terms of their batting line-up finding ways to relieve the pressure on turning wickets. Only Root has found form in truth during the five matches of their winter so far across Sri Lanka and India.
For India, there is the knowledge that a win or a draw will take them into the inaugural World Test Championship final against New Zealand. Draws, though, appear to be an increasing relic in Test matches, with surfaces like this one doing nothing for the concept of balanced contests between bat and ball.
If England are to rescue a series draw with a win in the Fourth Test, again in Ahmedabad, they will have to improve in both departments and keep their fingers crossed that the groundskeepers do a better job second time around.