Moments before tea, a Pragyan Ojha delivery shot up like a Diwali rocket. On a pitch that was absorbing the bounce like a sponge soaking up water, the sudden rise in the delivery came as a cloudburst for the drought-hit. The disconcerting bounce provided the much-needed elixir for the Indians, and MS Dhoni brought in more fielders close to the bat. The swift take-off also instilled doubts in the minds of the batsmen, who, until now, were wary if a shooter would sneak through. One thought there perhaps was more devil in the pitch than anticipated.
There was obviously not.
England remained largely untroubled; smothering the Indian bowling with ridiculous ease, they closed Day Four at a comfortable 161 for three. The score is sure not big enough but England, thanks to an unbeaten 66 from Jonathan Trott, are in control of the Test to achieve what they have set out for: a draw. By Monday evening, they should run away with the series 2-1, save a miracle.
From India’s standpoint, it would be height of optimism to believe that they could force a win from here on, though R Ashwin said that stranger things have happened in the game. India must hope for a dramatic collapse in the first session on the morrow but hoping that would be akin to expecting the Kolkata Knight Riders to hand over the team captaincy to Sourav Ganguly in IPL 6.
Coming back to that Ojha over, Nick Compton got out a couple of deliveries later but it was more of an umpiring error than a proper dismissal. Rod Tucker and Kumar Dharamasena continued to have a forgettable Test, though umpiring howlers are no reasons for India’s hopeless position here. India, in fact, were lucky that their perennial tormentor Alastair Cook got a horrendous caught-behind decision from Dharamasena.
After Cook and Compton were dismissed, India removed their danger man Kevin Pietersen, raising hopes of an unlikely England collapse, but Trott and Ian Bell added 67 for the fourth wicket to take the team to safety at 161 for three. England are now 165 ahead with seven wickets in hand.
Earlier, India’s strategy beggared belief. Being in a compelling position to force the pace, India started the day with a strange strategy.
R Ashwin declined singles and played a waiting game. The tactics defied logic as India were required to get things going. The imminent declaration came but, by then, the batsmen had wasted 13 overs during which they scored only 29 runs, without managing a single boundary.
England were only too willing to concede the singles. With a 2-1 lead, they do not have the express need to win this Test to clinch the series, and they promptly allowed the Indian batsmen to score as slowly as they could.
“We’re really surprised by the way they batted in the morning,” said James Anderson.
A bolder move would have been to declare at the overnight score of 297 for eight which would have given India an extra hour to have a go at the Englishmen. Strangely, the think tank did not think so.
Mr Fletcher, can you explain this incredible approach?