England back on level terms with ten-wicket win
Compton, Cook complete formalities
England notched up an emphatic 10-wicket win inside 10 sessions in the second Test, with their spinners taking 19 wickets on a helpful Wankhede pitch while their Indian counterparts managed just nine. And apart from Cheteshwar Pujara and Gautam Gambhir no frontline batsmen went past 30 in two innings.
Those figures are so damning, and so revealing that it shows the complete domination of a team – England in the present case – that wasn’t even supposed to challenge India on a surface tailor-made for the hosts. Batsmen who have been brought up on such pitches were expected to score mountains of runs, and spinners to take bagful of wickets.
Nothing of the sort materialised. Pujara’s hundred and R Ashwin’s fifty had carried India to a handy 327 in their first innings, but by the time the Indian spinners made an impact, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen had taken the game a few miles away from them, scoring their 22nd Test hundred each.
Even on a pitch that played a few tricks, this Indian batting line-up had no business to lose seven wickets for 117 runs in one session, but that was what transpired in the post-tea session on the third day. Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann dished out a master class in exploiting a spiteful pitch, as the Indian batting line-up resembled a heap of rusted scrap metal.
The only hope – that too a far-fetched one – for the Indians to at least stretch this Test was Gautam Gambhir, the lone remaining frontline batsman, and Harbhajan Singh, quite capable of knocking up a few runs down the order, forming a gritty partnership. After all, England had folded up against Pakistan at UAE early this year while chasing a paltry target.
That hope lasted only seven minutes into the first session of the fourth day on Monday. Swann delivered a ripping off-break, and Harbhajan couldn’t find enough time and space for a cut while giving himself room, and Jonathan Trott, who had a rather ordinary time in the slips thus far, made no mistake while collecting a thick edge diving to his left.
As is his wont, Zaheer came out and went back in a hurry, and the Indian innings should have been over soon but for another masterpiece decision by umpire Aleem Dar. Even Pragyan Ojha was quite sure that his edge off Panesar had carried to Swann at backward short leg, but Dar, perhaps, put off by England’s cocksure appeal, ruled it was not out. There was all-round disbelief.
But wrong has to be righted. Dar’s colleague Tony Hill performed that redemption act soon, giving Gambhir, who perplexingly didn’t try to shield the tail, out leg before to Swann off a massive inside edge, also signaling the end of the Indian innings at 142 in 44.1 overs. By that time, India had managed to extend their overall lead to a princely 56, and the only point of interest was how England would approach this small chase.
They wasted little time in whittling down the required runs, and Nick Compton was quite impressive. Alastair Cook adopted rather peaceful methods, but Compton went after the Indian spinners, even tonking Ojha for a six over long on. Compton’s struggles at the top might have been a bit worrisome for England, and this unbeaten 30 that carried England past the target, would give him oodles of confidence before the next Tests.
Fittingly, the winning runs came off four byes off Ashwin. It was an apt indication of how wayward the Indian spinners were in this game, and the work they needed to do before the third Test in Kolkata in 10 day’s time.
After a few quick handshakes with their English counterparts, the Indians vanished into the dressing room, reflecting their grim mood. Compton and Cook collected stumps as souvenirs of a remarkable win that will certainly rank as one of the best in their history, while others moved around the ground shaking hands with members of the Barmy Army. For now, England can celebrate after leveling the series 1-1, while India need to introspect.
INDIA (I Innings): 327
ENGLAND (I Innings): 413
INDIA (II Innings, O/n: 117/7):
Gambhir lbw Swann 65
(183m, 142b, 6x4)
Harbhajan c Trott b Swann 6
(13m, 5b, 1x4)
Zaheer c Prior b Panesar 1
Ojha (not out) 6
(22m, 19b, 1x4)
Extras (B-6, LB-3) 9
Total (all out, 44.1 overs) 142
Fall of wickets: 8-128 (Harbhajan), 9-131 (Zaheer).
Bowling: Anderson 4-1-9-0, Panesar 22-3-81-6, Swann 18.1-6-43-4.
ENGLAND (II Innings):
Cook (not out) 18
(31m, 30b, 1x4)
Compton (not out) 30
(31m, 28b, 4x4, 1x6)
Extras (B-8, LB-2) 10
Total (for no loss, 9.4 overs) 58
Bowling: Ashwin 3.4-0-22-0, Ojha 4-0-16-0, Harbhajan 2-0-10-0.