Indian batsmen's struggle continue

Visitors bowled out for 330; hosts stutter to 87/4

Indian batsmen's struggle continue

It was a perfect cover drive. Everything was so symmetrical about that shot off Tim Bresnan. It had a ‘don’t chase me’ tag on it that none of the English fielders moved an inch.

Gautam Gambhir looked pumped up, Englishmen seemed resigned to spending a long time on the field, and India were on ascendency despite losing Virender Sehwag in the first over itself.

But a storm was approaching of which there was no hint till India reached 59. Graeme Swann delivered a sharply spinning off-break that ballooned from Cheteshwer Pujara’s elbow, and Ian Bell not only latched on to the chance at forward short leg but created a theatre as well that was too strong for umpire Rod Tucker to deny.

Pujara was disgusted. English players knew their chance had come, and how brilliantly they exploited it to reduce India to 87 for four. India had managed to bring curtains on the visitors’ innings at 330 late in the afternoon, but they still require a further 243 runs to bridge the gap.

If Pujara’s dismissal had a hand of fortune in it, the other three were examples of James Anderson’s mastery. India needed a blitz from Sehwag on Friday at the VCA stadium more than any other day, something that could have taken the pitch and all other elements out of equation while giving India the advantage of time. But Anderson’s delivery swung in to beat Sehwag’s tentative prod, rearranging the woodwork.

A period of solidity followed. Gambhir appeared to have put aside his struggles, playing with lot more freedom against both pace and spin in the company of Pujara. The edgy Gambhir a common sight during this series was not visible anywhere, but a rather more familiar Gambhir surfaced. The extend of his positive intent was such that, Gambhir came out of the crease to loft Monty Panesar over the bowler’s head for a four, another rare occurrence in this series.

Shackles broken then, one would think. But Pujara’s dismissal came precisely at that time, and England squeezed themselves through the gap. Sachin Tendulkar entered the field accompanied by roars, and there was a situation for the master batsman to negate.

In olden times, Tendulkar would have taken the fight to the opposition, a glittering array of shots would have followed, and his genius would have bloomed under pressure. Oh, how easily those times have passed!

There was a just a batsman struggling to find his range – getting frustrated after beaten for turn by Panesar, and the firmness was lacking even in those pushes that once bisected the fielders with precision. Then came the bowler, whom Tendulkar wouldn’t be wanting to face at this stage – Anderson.

The Lancashire pacer has dismissed the Mumbaikar eight times in Tests before this day, and he began the Tendulkar-dismantling process with couple of balls that went away from him. Anderson soon brought the ball into Tendulkar, catching him in the crease, and the ball slipped through his prod. That was No 9 for Anderson, the most times a bowler has dismissed him in Tests.

But Gambhir seemed to be in a mood for scrap. The Delhi left-hander is at his dangerous best when he’s willing to put a price on his wicket and grind the opposition down.
However, Anderson’s delivery that offered width filled him with temptations for a drive that he couldn’t resist. Flash came the drive, and Matt Prior did the rest behind the wicket. It was a fantastic little spell from Anderson (4-1-3-2) that showed his control and effectiveness.

Suddenly, India were 71 for four, with nearly 10 overs remaining. MS Dhoni, who promoted himself to number six, and Virat Kohli saw them off without any more complications, but it’s just the beginning of their rescue mission.

The grittiness of England late order too played a part in pushing India onto the back foot. Resuming from overnight 199 for five, England added a further 131 runs after being redcued to 242 for seven, and they have to thank debutant Joe Root (73), who batted with the maturity of a veteran, Prior (57) and Graeme Swann (56), who scored his first Test fifty after December, 2009.

Those three knocks were embellished with more grit than skill, something the Indians failed to emulate.

SCORECARD

ENGLAND (I Innings):
Cook lbw Ishant    1
(45m, 28b)
Compton c Dhoni b Ishant    3
(17m, 12b)
Trott b Jadeja    44
(169m, 133b, 7x4)
Pietersen c Ojha b Jadeja    73
(198m, 188b, 10x4)
Bell c Kohli b Chawla    1
(37m, 28b)
Root c&b Chawla    73
(285m, 229b, 4x4)
Prior b Ashwin    57
(176m, 142b, 6x4)
Swann lbw Chawla    56
(96m, 91b, 6x4, 2x6)
Anderson c Pujara b Chawla    4
(22m, 17b)
Panesar (not out)    1
(6m, 5b)
Extras (B-5, LB-12)    17
Total (all out, 145.5 overs)    330
Fall of wickets: 1-3 (Compton), 2-16 (Cook), 3-102 (Trott), 4-119 (Bell), 5-139 (Pietersen), 6-242 (Prior), 7-242 (Bresnan), 8-302 (Root), 9-325 (Swann).
Bowling: Ishant 28-9-49-3, Ojha 35-12-71-0, Jadeja 37-17-58-2, Chawla 215-1-59-4, Ashwin 24-3-66-1.
INDIA (I Innings):
Gambhir c Prior b Anderson    37
(133m, 93b, 4x4)
Sehwag b Anderson    0
(4m, 2b)
Pujara c Bell b Swann    26
(89m, 72b, 3x4)
Tendulkar b Anderson    2
(25m, 13b)
Kohli (batting)    11
(30m, 39b)
Dhoni (batting)    8
(35m, 27b, 1x4)
Extras (B-1, LB-2)    3
Total (for 4 wkts, 41 overs)    87
Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Sehwag), 2-59 (Pujara), 3-64 (Tendulkar), 4-71 (Gambhir). Bowling: Anderson 9-2-24-3, Bresnan 10-1-25-0, Panesar 14-4-24-0, Swann 7-3-9-1, Trott 1-0-2-0.

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