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India reclaims No. 2 spot with series win

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HIP, HIP, HOORAY: The Indian team members are ecstatic after clinching the Test series against England at Mohali on Tuesday.
HIP, HIP, HOORAY: The Indian team members are ecstatic after clinching the Test series against England at Mohali on Tuesday.

S. Dinakar

Mohali Test ends in a drab draw; Gambhir, Yuvraj miss out on hundreds

Mohali: The Indian huddle reflected the sense of togetherness in the team. The team’s surge to the top continued with the 1-0 series victory in the two-Test series over England.

Reclaiming the No. 2 spot in the ICC Test ratings, the Indians celebrated at the PCA Stadium on Tuesday. With the fog delaying the start to 11.30 a.m., there was little time for India to press for a win.

Rollicking partnership

From an Indian perspective, a drawn Test was not without significance. The protagonists of a rollicking fifth-wicket partnership — Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh — missed out on hundreds but Mahendra Singh Dhoni provided late afternoon entertainment with a bustling over of lively medium-pace bowling. The Indian captain clocked speeds in excess of 130 kmph.

Later, Dhoni had his hands on the series trophy under bright sunshine. He has been a strong captain for the side. For the record, India declared at 251 for seven in its second innings. Set an improbable target of 403 in a minimum of 44 overs, England finished at 64 for one.

Reward for Zaheer

In a series where much spotlight was on the batsmen, a paceman walked away with the Man-of-the-Series award.

Zaheer Khan’s control and movement has been among the highlights of the series. He has struck with the new and the old ball, with swing and reverse swing.

Gambhir was a deserving Man-of-the-Match. He would derive plenty of satisfaction from his second innings effort (97, 229b, 6x4). This was the innings of a teamman.

The most improved batsman in the Indian line-up, the present-day Gambhir is a lot surer around the off-stump.

In the initial period of his career, he was prone to hanging his bat out to deliveries leaving him.

Under the circumstances, it was a pleasing sight to watch Gambhir let go deliveries — with sound judgment —outside the off-stump on a pitch offering movement to the pacemen. Balanced in his stance, he is playing closer to his body.

Gambhir can also switch gears; the southpaw’s walk-and-slam approach, despite the inherent danger, can knock a bowler off his length.

The opener, light on his feet, sauntered down the track and thwacked James Anderson through the covers.

Superb fielding

Gambhir was within a stroke of a hundred in both the innings when he top-edged a cut off Graeme Swann; a diving Ian Bell came up with the ball at deep point. Short of runs with the willow, Bell has been sensational on the field.

Yuvraj’s striking ability was on view once again. The punishing left-hander picked Swann from well out the off-stump and slog-swept the bowler to the mid-wicket boundary.

If he survives the initial period, Yuvraj’s power and confidence can be extremely unsettling to the bowlers. When Anderson strayed just a shade in line, he was ruthlessly flicked for a six.

Incredible stroke

Yuvraj (86, 93b, 6x4, 4x6) brought back Stuart Broad’s unhappy Twenty20 memories. Essentially a back-footed or a stand-and-deliver batsman when he began his career, Yuvraj does get a big stride forward these days. He pulled off an incredible stroke from this position; a brutal front-footed pull off Broad that cleared the long-on fence.

When Broad changed his line, Yuvraj was ready. He created room on the off-side this time, sending the ball over the cover boundary. This is a stroke high on the range of difficulty.

A fired-up Yuvraj attempted and connected a switch-hit off Swann. The ball crashed into ’keeper Matt Prior’s shoulder.

Moment of concern

The batsman, in a moment of genuine concern, walked up to Prior.

Despite the odd exchange of words, the spirit between the sides has been healthy.

Yuvraj was heading for a stroke-filled hundred when he swept Swann to short fine-leg; Bell picked the ball and whipped it to the stumps in one motion. Dhoni — the ball stopping on him — knocked one back to Monty Panesar to provide the left-arm spinner a moment of solace.

The England batsmen were soon back and Ishant Sharma nipped out the left-handed Alastair Cook early from round-the-wicket; Cook edged an away going delivery for V.V.S. Laxman to hold a good low catch in the cordon.

Then the Test meandered into a draw.

SCOREBOARD

 India — 1st innings: 453.

England — 1st innings: 302.

India — 2nd innings: G. Gambhir c Bell b Swann 97, V. Sehwag (run out) 17, R. Dravid b Broad 0, S. Tendulkar c Swann b Anderson 5, V.V.S. Laxman (run out) 15, Yuvraj (run out) 86, M.S. Dhoni c & b Panesar 0, Harbhajan (not out) 5, Extras (b-10, lb-8, nb-3, w-5): 26; Total (for seven wkts. decl. in 73 overs): 251.

Fall of wickets: 1-30 (Sehwag), 2-36 (Dravid), 3-44 (Tendulkar), 4-80 (Laxman), 5-233 (Yuvraj), 6-241 (Dhoni), 7-251 (Gambhir).

England bowling: Anderson 19-8-51-1, Broad 14-2-50-1, Flintoff 13-1-39-0, Swann 17-3-49-1, Panesar 10-0-44-1

England — 2nd innings: A. Strauss (not out) 21, A. Cook c Laxman b Ishant 10, I. Bell (not out) 24, Extras: (b-4, nb-4, w-1): 9; Total (for one wkt. in 28 overs): 64.

Fall of wicket: 1-18 (Cook).

India bowling: Zaheer 3-0-11-0, Ishant 5-1-7-1, Harbhajan 11-3-25-0, Mishra 8-1-16-0, Dhoni 1-0-1-0.

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