England turns on the screws while India disintegrates
The day’s play included a now familiar sight of a despondent audience witnessing a Sachin Tendulkar failure, his decline so rapid, so defining, everything else paling in significance.
Away from the body, static in the crease, his bat a timid weapon and an inside-edge to an incoming ball; the Tendulkar we knew would have covered.
But this is a different Tendulkar, a cricket mortal, a man under intense, at times ruthless, scrutiny. Hence, every failure makes a humungous impact on the dressing room. On his future too!
In 15 innings thus far this year, Tendulkar has only two 50-plus scores. Obviously his wretched form has left the team bleeding.
Not that his approach lacks effort. He is still the most enthusiastic, dedicated and disciplined player; passionate and fiercely involved even from third man and fine leg where he fields mostly these days. But cricket has turned its back on Tendulkar.
England, resumed at 199 for five, and prospered to 330. The 131 runs added on Friday morning came through Graeme Swann (56), Root (42) and Matt Prior (33), the last two carrying on from the confidence acquired overnight.
Desperate day ahead
By close, India, at 87 for four, was looking at a desperate Saturday with Mahendra Singh Dhoni needing to play the innings of his life, an innings that would save the series and his reputation as someone who believes in leading from the front.
If the batsman excels the pitch must have eased; little credit is given to his skills. If the bowler dominates, obviously the pitch must have helped; again few appreciate his prowess. It can be a cruel game but cricket is basically quite uncomplicated.
You score runs if you bat well but you don’t always get wickets by bowling well.
Joe Root shone for England by batting sensibly. Piyush Chawla picked four wickets but not all for incisive bowling.
The second day’s play had an element of incongruity — the good and not so good shared the limelight.
Root was a pleasant change from batsmen who appear in a hurry to make an impact. He loves to follow the old school fundamental of batting — play straight and look to bat long.
To do that, a batsman has to raise his game and Root was comfortable, building his innings, pacing his shots, essentially concentrating on cementing his place and putting England in a strong position.
England dominated the day. It batted with purpose and bowled to a plan. Root was involved in two fruitful partnerships — 103 for the sixth wicket with Prior and 60 for the eighth wicket with Swann.
Dominant and enterprising
He was the dominant partner and the more enterprising too. He had read the pitch well to emerge with an innings that did justice to his talent. He was the inspiration for Swann to exhibit his batting potential, a gritty half century, his first in three years.
Prior was the day’s first victim, when he misread the line from R. Ashwin bowling round the wicket. Tim Bresnan went cheaply and then fell Root, his intended drive flying back to Chawla.
The English bowlers then took over. Virender Sehwag earned his seventh duck against England when he played inside the line, the ball wobbling in and sending him out.
Cheteshwar Pujara, the new hope, got a rough decision. It looked rough only in replays, not from umpire Rod Tucker’s position, as the ball grazed the forearm and nicely nestled in the forward short leg’s palms.
Tendulkar’s dismissal created pressure and Gautram Gambhir succumbed, driving ambitiously, a shot that was always fraught with danger against James Anderson, who produced an outstanding spell to rattle the Indian camp.
The match is not lost yet but the fight to save it has only intensified.
England – 1st innings: A. Cook lbw b Ishant 1 (28b), N. Compton c Dhoni b Ishant 3 (12b), J. Trott b Jadeja 44 (133b, 7x4), K. Pietersen c Ojha b Jadeja 73 (188b, 10x4), I. Bell c Kohli b Chawla 1 (28b), J. Root c&b Chawla 73 (229b, 4x4), M. Prior b Ashwin 57 (142b, 6x4), T. Bresnan lbw b Ishant 0 (2b), G. Swannlbw b Chawla 56 (91b, 6x4), J. Anderson c Pujara b Chawla 4 (17b), M. Panesar (not out) 1 (5b), Extras (b-5, lb-12) 17, Total (in 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).
India bowling: Ishant 28-9-49-3, Ojha 35-12-71-0, Jadeja 37-17-58-2, Chawla 21.5-1-69-4, Ashwin 24-3-66-1.
India – 1st innings: G. Gambhir c Prior b Anderson 37 (93b, 4x4), V. Sehwag b Anderson 0 (2b), C. Pujara c Bell b Swann 26 (72b, 3x4), S. Tendulkar b Anderson 2 (13b), V. Kohli (batting) 11 (39b), M.S. Dhoni (batting) 8 (27b, 1x4), Extras (b-1, lb-2) 3, Total (for four wickets in 41 overs) 87.
Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Sehwag), 2-59 (Pujara), 3-64 (Tendulkar), 4-71 (Gambhir).
England bowling: Anderson 9-2-24-3, Bresnan 10-1-25-0, M. Panesar 14-4-24-0, Swann 7-3-9-1, Trott 1-0-2-0.