Ashwin left stranded on 91; England knocks off modest target in 12.1 overs

God did not help India even as Virender Sehwag evoked a divine intervention when play ended on Saturday. India was 32 runs ahead with the last pair at the crease. And a new ball to combat. Some faithful supporters of Indian cricket turned up at the Eden Gardens but England completed a seven-wicket victory to go up 2-1 in the four-match Test series.

R. Ashwin remained unbeaten on 91 and a crestfallen Pragyan Ojha reminded one of a tearful B.S. Chandrasekhar at the Chepauk many years ago. He could not give G.R. Viswanath the strike and the maestro was left stranded at 97 against a ferocious West Indies attack in 1975. Viswanath, having played one of the most stirring innings in India’s cricket history, brushed his anguish aside and put a consoling arm around Chandra. To this day it has remained a most poignant frame.

Even as Ojha offered apologies for letting his partner down, the affable Ashwin patted his young spin colleague as they walked together to the dressing room after presenting England with a target of 41 runs. India, resuming at 239 for nine, folded up in ten more deliveries.

England knocked off the runs in 73 balls, the final day’s play lasting an hour. Ojha’s dismissal was astonishing, the bail falling much after the ball had passed the stumps.

Less than 2000 spectators cheered the Indians when they took the field. It was a far cry from the packed house in January, 1977 expecting the home team to pull off a miracle. India began that final day against England at 145 for seven, just 21 runs ahead, with Brijesh Patel left batting with the tail.

Those were days when Test cricket was the paramount form of the game.

An overflowing Eden prayed for an Indian renaissance that did not happen, to their utter chagrin, and Tony Greig’s team completed a whopping 10-wicket victory.

Vocal support

That could have been the margin of an English win today as a small section lent vocal support to the Indians.

In a show of complacency, England contrived artificial excitement by giving a laborious touch to an insignificant target.

The Barmy Army sat in silence as England lost three quick wickets, so symbolically to Ashwin and Ojha as India started with spin.

The Indian team management is believed to be convinced that only the spinners played their role well.

England’s woes were short. Alastair Cook jumped out and came to grief.

It was a rare display of indiscretion by the English captain, who nevertheless won the ‘man-of-the-match’ award for his stupendous first innings knock of 190 that set the foundation for England’s grand victory.

Cook’s dismissal triggered a minor collapse. Jonathan Trott’s forward defence left him foxed as the ball did not turn and he was plumb.

Kevin Pietersen edged Ashwin, who attacked him with a skilful variation, pushing the ball than trying to spin.

The shining red cherry nestled in Dhoni’s gloves. England had made it tough for itself and there were no more alarms as Ian Bell and Nick Compton ensured the runs came in a canter.

The Barmy Army celebrated the English triumph in the eastern stands.

Outside Eden, life went on normal, the soothing Rabindra Sangeet wafting in the serene ambience of Chowringhee on a balmy Sunday.

Scoreboard:

India — 1st innings: 316.

England — 1st innings: 523.

India — 2nd innings: G. Gambhir c Prior b Finn 40 (104b, 4x4, 1x6), V. Sehwag b Swann 49 (57b, 7x4), C. Pujara (run out) 8 (22b, 2x4), S. Tendulkar c Trott b Swann 5 (6b, 1x4), V. Kohli c Prior b Finn 20 (60b, 3x4), Y. Singh b Anderson 11 (17b, 2x4), M.S. Dhoni, c Cook b Anderson 0 (3b), R. Ashwin (not out) 91 (157b, 15x4), Zaheer lbw b Finn 0 (4b), I. Sharma b Panesar 10 (53b, 2x4), P. Ojha b Anderson 3 (25b), Extras (b-8, lb-2) 10; Total (in 84.4 overs) 247.

Fall of wickets: 1-86 (Sehwag), 2- 98 (Pujara), 3-103 (Gambhir), 4-107 (Tendulkar), 5-122 (Yuvraj), 6-122 (Dhoni), 7-155 (Kohli), 8-159 (Zaheer), 9-197 (Sharma).

England bowling: Anderson 15.4-4-38-3, Finn 18-6-45-3, Panesar 22-1-75-1, Swann 28-9-70-2, Patel 1-0-9-0.

England — 2nd innings: A. Cook st Dhoni b Ashwin 1 (4b), N. Compton (not out) 9 (30b, 1x4), J. Trott lbw b Ojha 3 (6b), K. Pietersen c Dhoni b Ashwin 0 (5b), I. Bell (not out) 28 (28b, 4x4); Total (for three wkts. in 12.1 overs) 41.

Fall of wickets: 1-4 (Cook), 2-7 (Trott), 3-8 (Pietersen).

India bowling: Ashwin 6.1-1-31-2, Ojha 6-3-10-1.

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