Cook, KP turn on the heat
England make strong reply to reach 178/2 after bowling India out for 327
Turning ball, innumerable edges that eluded the close-in fielders by a whisker, oohs and aahs from a sizeable crowd that echoed through the Wankhede stadium…it was cricket in the sub-continent at its best on a bright Saturday.
They were also symbols of a bloody-minded battle for upper hand waged by India and England. The visitors had managed to restrict India to 327, not a hugely satisfying total.
With the lone pacer in the side, Zaheer Khan, offering a welcome interlude, the Indian spinners plucked two English wickets but the visitors recovered from those blows to progress to 178 at close on the second day of the second Test. England are still trailing by 149 runs, with their captain Alastair Cook (87 batting) and Kevin Pietersen (62 batting) frustrating the Indian spinners.
The hosts will hope for a better effort with the ball on the third day to break away from the visitors in a decisive fashion, a task they can accomplish only by dismissing Cook and Pietersen.
The genesis of the English fightback was in their competent effort with the ball in the morning session. India started the day at 266 for six with Cheteshwer Pujara and R Ashwin looking well set in the middle. They had added 97 runs for the seventh wicket on Friday, and England might have watched the sight of their alliance going past the 100-run mark with a foreboding feeling. It required the best English bowler on view – Monty Panesar – to snap the partnership, trapping Ashwin in front of the wicket. There on, the lone stumbling block in front of England was Pujara, who continued his search for big runs with ease.
But Graeme Swann deceived Pujara with a flighted delivery for Prior to complete the formalities. It was also one of the rare instances when a spinner managed to beat Pujara in the air, and it was also the first time the Saurasthra lad was dismissed in the series. The dismissal came 16 hours and 55 minutes from the time he stepped on to the field at Motera back on November 16, and he had scored 382 runs by then in three innings. Incredible piece of statistics!
Even then it required an error of judgment by umpire Aleem Dar, winner of the ICC award for the best umpire on multiple occasions, to draw curtains on the Indian innings. For once, Zaheer Khan looked in no hurry to walk back to the pavilion, but Dar deemed that a ripping off-break delivered by Swann made contact with the Zaheer’s bat en route Jonny Bairstow’s hands at forward short leg.
Replays clearly showed the wide gulf between bat and ball, but with no DRS available the Indians didn’t have the luxury of an appeal. But then that was not the only occasion when the Indians might have felt disappointed on the day.
Cook and Nick Compton gave England a solid start, adding 66 runs for the opening wicket. Pragyan Ojha broke the stubborn stand, eliciting an edge from Compton for Virender Sehwag at first slip. The Hyderabad left-arm spinner backed the first blow with the scalp of Jonathan Trott who was caught deep in the crease by a straighter delivery.
At 68 for two, an Indian spin show was expected to unfold. But that wasn’t to be. Cook and Pietersen produced a grim-minded partnership of 110 to thwart India’s ambition of making quick work through the England line-up. The end of the day’s score and the third wicket partnership might give an impression of an utter English domination. But nothing could be farther from the truth as it was a cat and mouse game that unfolded in the middle.
The Indian spin troika of Ashwin, Ojha and Harbhajan Singh was right behind the neck of Cook and Pietersen throughout their stay, and at times they were quite fortunate to see the ball evading the bat or edges falling short of the fielders. But those moments of luck would in no way rob Cook-Pietersen alliance of the credit it deserves. Cook has been great touch since arriving in the Indian shores, but Pietersen had to cast a few gremlins away from his mind and against left-arm spin.
The Surrey right-hander succeeded in that venture to a large extent, and as the innings progressed a familiar Pietersen began to surface – confident and ready to control the situation – on a pitch that’s playing a few tricks. They are not entirely out of woods yet, but as Pink Floyd sang in Time, Englishmen are hanging there in quite desperation.
INDIA (I Innings, O/n: 266/6):
Gambhir lbw Anderson 4
Sehwag b Panesar 30
(73m, 43b, 4x4)
Pujara st Prior b Swann 135
(452m, 350b, 12x4)
Tendulkar b Panesar 8
(14m, 12b, 1x4)
Kohli c Compton b Panesar 19
(65m, 85b, 3x4)
Yuvraj b Swann 0
Dhoni c Swann b Panesar 29
(83m, 64b, 4x4)
Ashwin lbw Panesar 68
(142m, 114b, 9x4)
Harbhajan lbw Swann 21
(46m, 35b, 2x4, 1x6)
Zaheer c Bairstow b Swann 11
(15m, 11b, 1x4, 1x6)
Ojha (not out) 0
Extras (LB-1, NB-1) 2
Total (all out, 115.1 overs) 327
Fall of wickets: 1-4 (Gambhir), 2-52 (Sehwag), 3-60 (Tendulkar), 4-118 (Kohli), 5-119 (Yuvraj), 6-169 (Dhoni), 7-280 (Ashwin), 8-315 (Harbhajan), 9-316 (Pujara).
Bowling: Anderson 18-3-61-1, Broad 12-1-60-0 (nb-1), Panesar 47-12-129-5, Swann 34.1-7-70-4, Samit 4-1-6-0.
ENGLAND (I Innings):
Cook (batting) 87
(251m, 209b, 10x4 1x6)
Compton c Sehwag b Ojha 29
(112m, 90b, 4x4)
Trott lbw Ojha 0
Pietersen (batting) 62
(127m, 85b, 9x4)
Total (2 wkts, 65 overs) 178
Fall of wickets: 1-66 (Compton), 2-68 (Trott).
Bowling: Ashwin 22-5-54-0, Ojha 21-3-65-2, Zaheer 8-4-12-0, Harbhajan 14-0-47-0.