Indian top-order backs up the bowlers to put the team in command

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ANOTHER MILESTONE: Sachin Tendulkar acknowledges the crowd’s cheers after reaching 11,000 run-mark on Saturday.
ANOTHER MILESTONE: Sachin Tendulkar acknowledges the crowd’s cheers after reaching 11,000 run-mark on Saturday.

S. Ram Mahesh

Tendulkar crosses 11,000 runs in Tests; Karthik and Jaffer impress

Nottingham: India’s batsmen, led by openers Dinesh Karthik and Wasim Jaffer, consolidated the edge their bowlers had won in dismissing England for 198 on the second day of the second Test here at Trent Bridge.

After Zaheer Khan and Anil Kumble had taken a little over 40 minutes on Saturday morning to wrap England’s innings up, Karthik and Jaffer put on 147 —India’s first opening stand of over a 100 in England in over 25 years.

Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid then added 97 for the third wicket to take India past England. But, Monty Panesar deceived Dravid into spooning a catch to short extra cover, altering the dynamic slightly.

India had reached 254 for three — a lead of 56 —when bad light ended play with six overs remaining.

Improved conditions

India’s batting effort was helped by a slight improvement in the conditions. Alastair Cook had said on Friday that “with the amount of water (we’ve had) and with the water table so high, the moisture will keep coming out in the sun, so it’ll keep nipping around.”

But, Dravid chose the heavy roller between innings to still the strip somewhat. The moisture was drawn to the surface by the roller. As the sun dried the pitch, a crust of considerable firmness formed.

Make no mistake, there still was cut; and the ball swung from the impeccable wrists and fingers of Ryan Sidebottom and James Anderson, but India’s openers had just the advantage they needed.

Creditable show

Nothing, however, should be taken away from Karthik and Jaffer. They were tested by all three England fast bowlers. Though tempted, Karthik and Jaffer did well not to push their hands and follow the movement. They were beaten by corkers; but, by playing the line, they ensured they didn’t edge many.

They were both skilful and fortunate: edges, when they came, either didn’t carry because of a softening of the hands or went through gaps in the field because of intervention by chance. Most importantly, they were positive: nearly every bad delivery was put away.

England had a chance against Jaffer when he was on 32, but Ian Bell, diving to his left at gully, couldn’t hold on. Otherwise, the quality of the driving was first-class. As, on many occasions, was the running.

Jaffer, collar turned up, was grander: tall and slender, he brings to his strokeplay an air of stately indifference. Karthik was more emphatic. He moves much like Ricky Ponting: both men give off a sense of low-slung balance; both bend at the waist to complement the stride forward; both press off this stride in back-foot play; and both often look ugly squared up.

The comparison can’t be made on grounds other than movement, for Karthik is a long, long way off. But, on Saturday, he cut and drove with an authority Ponting would have recognised. Though late on the ball on occasions, hitting some strokes squarer than he conceived, he wasn’t hurried.

Karthik got to his half-century first, lofting Panesar over cover, and welcomed Jaffer to the milestone five minutes later. Karthik bordered on over-confidence, skipping down the track to Anderson and Sidebottom. But, he backed his bluster by driving and pulling for four.

Double blow

Jaffer and Karthik fell either side of tea, within two runs of each other. Chris Tremlett got one to bounce on Jaffer, who feathered a catch to Matt Prior; Karthik went first ball after tea, strangled into touching one to short leg off Monty Panesar, bowling over the wicket.

Dravid and Tendulkar spent time settling. Tendulkar took his eyes off an Anderson bouncer while swaying away and got hit on the grille. His ability against bounce has been under the scanner in recent times, and the incident won’t help.

Though tentative — he once went 21 balls without scoring — Tendulkar refused to give it away. He stroked Panesar through cover to reach 11,000 Test runs. The paddle sweep brought him a hard-earned 50.

Earlier on Saturday, Zaheer and Kumble, India’s two best bowlers to tail-enders, were held up by a 29-run partnership for the eighth wicket between Tremlett and Sidebottom.

Sequence of wickets

Just as frustration seemed to fester, the two bowlers sparked a sequence of wickets: Kumble bowled Tremlett with an old favourite — the fizzing skidder — after several threats; Zaheer persuaded Panesar to edge to second slip; Anderson realised the folly of trying to cut Kumble the instant he was bowled.

Zaheer had four for 59, Kumble three for 32, but England had crept near 200, the re-adjusted target once the side finished day one on 169 for seven.

Sidebottom, who played surprisingly well off his pads, finished unbeaten on 18.

His gawky, left-handed batting was crucial on Bowlers’ Friday: when Zaheer snared Bell with a lovely inswinger to the right-hander, catching him in front of his stumps, England had been in danger of being bowled out in under two sessions.

SCOREBOARDEngland - 1st innings: A. Strauss c Tendulkar b Zaheer 4, A. Cook lbw b Ganguly 43, M. Vaughan c Tendulkar b Zaheer 9, K. Pietersen lbw b R.P. Singh 13, P. Collingwood b Sreesanth 28, I. Bell lbw b Zaheer 31, M. Prior c Dravid b Kumble 11, C. Tremlett b Kumble 20, R. Sidebottom (not out) 18, M. Panesar c Laxman b Zaheer 1, J. Anderson b Kumble 1; Extras (b-8, lb-7, nb-3, w-1): 19; Total (in 65.3 overs): 198.Fall of wickets: 1-4 (Strauss), 2-24 (Vaughan), 3-47 (Pietersen), 4-101 (Collingwood), 5-109 (Cook), 6-147 (Prior), 7-157 (Bell), 8-186 (Tremlett), 9-195 (Panesar).India bowling: Zaheer 21-6-59-4, Sreesanth 12-7-16-1, R.P. Singh 10-1-56-1, Ganguly 8-4-11-1, Kumble 12.3-2-32-3, Tendulkar 2-0-9-0.India - 1st innings: D. Karthik c Cook b Panesar 77, W. Jaffer c Prior b Tremlett 62, R. Dravid c Bell b Panesar 37, S. Tendulkar (batting) 57, S. Ganguly (batting) 4; Extras (b-6, lb-10, w-1) 17; Total (for three wkts. in 79 overs) 254.Fall of wickets: 1-147 (Jaffer), 2-149 (Karthik), 3-246 (Dravid).England bowling: Sidebottom 17-1-55-0, Anderson 18-4-68-0, Tremlett 20-8-32-1, Collingwood 6-0-33-0, Panesar 18-5-50-2.

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