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Battling England in sight of series win

G Unnikrishnan, Nagpur, Dec 16, 2012, DHNS:

Cricket: Fourth Test set to end in a draw as India fail to strike

Alastair Cook. PTI photo

It was the strangest first hour you might see in Test cricket.

India were just 33 runs behind England after resuming at 297 for eight, and they had a great chance to declare at that overnight score, and have an early crack at the English batsmen.

But the hosts didn’t take that opportunity, delaying the declaration by 62 minutes on Sunday morning, adding just 29 runs in that period, eventually closing their innings at 326 for nine, just four runs behind.

Quite a bizarre tactic it was because India were the team in need of a win to level the series, but they looked reluctant to take the gamble, and England might just have showed up the folly behind that decision while moving to 161 for three at close for an overall lead of 165.

Barring a miraculous spell of bowling by the Indians or a massive blunder by the Englishmen, the Test is poised to end in a draw and in a remarkable series victory for England in these shores after 27 years. By refusing to deal with the situation with a firm hand in the first session, Indians too assisted England’s cause.

The only defence Indians can put up for delaying the declaration could be their desire to limit England’s first innings lead and start the third innings on level terms. But in this scenario, that can also be viewed as skipper MS Dhoni’s lack of faith in the incisiveness of his bowlers, and the way they bowled to Englishmen might underscore that point.

Admittedly, the 22-yard strip at the VCA stdium was not a bowler’s mistress where the ball came on like a scotched egg, but there was no will or desire from the hosts’ part to make something happen. It required two judgmental errors – one by umpire and other by a batsman – to provide them two of the three wickets. Alastair Cook has already left his looming shadow over this series, producing knocks in which quantity and quality merged to a nicety.

In the first innings, the left-handed Essex man was vastly unlucky to be given leg before to Ishant Sharma when he was well outside the line of the off-stump, and in the second innings, umpire Kumar Dharmasena came into the picture again, ruling the England skipper caught behind off R Ashwin. The replays showed daylight between bat and ball but his dismissal didn’t spread panic through the English line-up as many would have hoped.

Instead, they looked all the more determined. Nick Compton was nothing less than impressive after his initial struggles on this tour, and the grandson of Dennis Compton showed the value of his dour ways, staving off the Indians for 166 minutes — it was valuable time considering the nature of this game. Compton and Jonathan Trott were at their resilient best, and Pragyan Ojha snapped the blooming alliance trapping Compton in front.

Here also, the ball had taken the inside edge of Compton’s bat before hitting his pad, and then nestling in Virat Kohli’s hands at gully. Though umpire Rod Tucker decided to give it leg before, Compton was out anyways because of the inside edge.

Another big bonanza came in India’s way when Kevin Pietersen decided to shoulder arms to Ravindra Jadeja, and the ball that that didn’t spin even a millimeter rattled the off-stump. At 94 for three with well over an hour’s play left on the day, Indians had a golden chance to twist the knife in.

But they never showed the desired intensity or purpose, as Ian Bell and Trott, who made an unbeaten 66, thwarted the feeble Indian attempts for the next 93 minutes. The only time Trott looked in trouble was when his attempt to cut Ishant seemed to have elicited an edge to Dhoni, but umpire Dharmasena was quite sure that it wasn’t the case.

It pushed the Indians to deep frustration that came out in the shape of exchanges between Trott, Ishant and Jadeja, while Dhoni had his own tussle with umpire Tucker. But in the end, they will acknowledge that they themselves had let the chance pass.

score board

ENGLAND (I Innings): 330 all out

INDIA (I Innings, O/n: 297/8):

Ashwin (not out)    29
(91m, 65b)
Ojha b Panesar    3
(48m, 31b)
Ishant (not out)    2
(12m, 7b)
Extras (B-5, LB-7)    12

Total (for 9 wkts decl, 143 overs)326

Fall of wickets: 9-317 (Ojha).

Bowling: Anderson 32-5-81-4, Bresnan 26-5-69-0, Panesar 52-15-81-1,
Swann 31-10-76-3, Trott 1-0-2-0, Root 1-0-5-0.

ENGLAND (II Innings):
Cook c Dhoni b Ashwin    13
(105m, 93b, 1x4)
Compton lbw Ojha    34
(166m, 135b, 1x4)
Trott (batting)    66
(181m, 153b, 9x4)
Pietersen b Jadeja    6
(27m, 30b, 1x4)
Bell (batting)    24
(93m, 67b, 4x4)

Extras (B-8, LB-6, NB-4)    18

Total (for 3 wkts, 79 overs)    161

Fall of wickets: 1-48 (Cook), 2-81 (Compton), 3-94 (Pietersen).

Bowling: Ishant 12-2-27-0 (nb-1), Ojha 23-10-39-1, Ashwin 18-9-34-1, Chawla 10-2-20-0 (nb-2), Jadeja 16-9-27-1 (nb-1).


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