Indian attack lacks self-belief and purpose
A freak run-out came as a god-sent breakthrough for the beleaguered Indian team. Alastair Cook, unflappable and unflinching, erred with his lethargic response to a throw from Virat Kohli. His evasive action conceded a fatal route for the ball to land on the stumps. The English captain was short of the crease and an innocuous attempt from the fielder had done what concerted effort from the team could not. It triggered Cook’s fall in bizarre circumstances. India could breathe even if for a while.
Spirit of cricket could not be invoked in this run-out of Cook. Not after the opposition had landed a jackpot. Kohli’s exaggerated celebration was understandable because Cook had reduced Indian cricket to a pitiable state where bowlers and fielders gave the impression of working in opposite directions. With two days left, England was 509 for six; an overall lead of 193 runs, the visiting team’s aggregate on Friday being 293.
The punishing blades of Cook and Jonathan Trott battered the bowlers into submission and gave India the image of a team that lacked self-belief and purpose for the second day at the Eden Gardens here. Thanks to Cook and his 173–run stand for the second wicket with Trott, England found itself dictating the course of the day’s play with Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men leaving everything to providence. It worked in Cook’s case.
England had a plan. India had none. Cook and Trott had stepped out on Friday morning with a pledge to consolidate their position. They knew their task well. After all, the bowling hardly made an impact. Cricket became so predictable when Cook and Trott shone at the crease and runs came at a fluent pace. The pressure on India increased with time and the team came apart regardless of the wickets that fell on the third day.
Cook knows the best way to bat. He presents a straight bat. It is an education in batting as Cook dismantles the bowlers’ designs with a simple but effective method. His footwork is measured and tactical. He confines to mostly playing from the crease and the occasions he steps out there is authority in his work, shot selection and shot placement a sheer delight.
There is solidity in Trott’s approach. He brings a certain attitude to his batting, reading the bowler’s arm accurately and early and playing his shots with a refreshing flourish. Trott had ample time to defend or charge and complemented Cook superbly in building a formidable partnership. It was such a bright phase of cricket for the connoisseurs on a balmy afternoon.
The Indians watched in awe as Cook and Trott prospered. Their impeccable concentration accorded England innings the strength to pulverize the bowlers, who continued to be insipid without exception. Cook and Trott could not be tempted into indiscretion because their best quality was their judgement in ‘leaving’ the ball. The Indian bowlers were wayward in line and length and the less said of the fielding the better.
Cook was dropped by Ishant off his own bowling at 156. Trott offered no chance until he played an uncharacteristic cut from a stance position. The ball curled and kissed the edge to land in Dhoni’s gloves. It was a tame end to a most dedicated performance.
Cook’s dismissal came through the only way he would have got out. The left-hander, with profound grace in his batting style, was distinctly unfortunate in falling short of a deserving double century and more. It must hurt him more for this was his first run-out dismissal in 312 first-class innings.
The imperious Pietersen mocked at the Indian bowling with his strokeplay. He hit the ball at will, picked the gaps with a touch of arrogance and left the attack bleeding. A few shots from Pietersen bore the stamp of his furious form, the straight six off Pragyan Ojha an emphatic statement on his ability to pick the ball early and send it to his desired goal.
Pietersen batted with complete freedom but became a victim of his aggressive instincts when he chose to play the sweep one too many to a ball that held its line.
England prospered with Samit Patel feasting on the tiring attack and Matt Prior helping himself to some easy runs. There was nothing that India did right on Friday. England did nothing wrong!