Talk of change of days, and ends. On Friday, Graeme Swann returned figures of 26-5-59-1, bowling most of those from the Tata End. On Saturday, he bowled nine consecutive overs from the Garware Pavilion End, his back facing the watchful eyes of the team’s think-tank. The result? England’s most successful off-spinner came up with a incisive spell and tallied 8.1-2-11-3. In the process, he also reached a landmark — that of completing 200 wickets in Tests.
R Ashwin had added only eight to his overnight score of 60 before falling leg-before to Monty Panesar. India were seven down with 14 more on the board. And the sub-text, much like a football scoreline, read Panesar 5, Swann 1. That’s when Alastair Cook handed his lead spinner the ball.
It was the 10th over the day; 100th of the innings. Cheteshwar Pujara collected nothing off the first four deliveries but dispatched the fifth through the covers for a four.
The next four overs saw Swann display his repertoire. He bowled sharp off-breaks, imparting flight more often that not. He also dished out ‘darts’, much like Harbhajan Singh does. He tossed it up, bowled harmful, harmless and full-blooded deliveries, but the point is that he was in total control. The result? No boundary scored.
Harbhajan had collected two fours and a six off Panesar, and before he could fancy his chances of having some fun at Swann’s expense, the Englishman struck. Yes, it was a ‘dart’. Harbhajan moved across and the ball hit his pads just in front of the off-stump.
India were reduced to 315/8 and Pujara, sensing that he would be stranded before taking India past even 350 (Ashwin had said on Friday that they would look to get 375), decided to change gears.
Swann laid his trap well though. He flighted the ball and landed it well outside off. For once, Pujara was beaten in the air and Matt Prior did the rest.
England, rather Swann, had finally breached the fortress wall that is Pujara after a mind-boggling 1,015 minutes. Swann got his 202nd and India’s last when he had Zaheer Khan caught by Jonny Bairstow at forward short-leg. Umpire Aleem Dar thought it was bat-pad but it wasn’t and the crowd didn’t like it one bit.
A rather clumsy end to the innings, maybe, but don’t take anything away from Swann. The Indian tail is known to wag, especially on these wickets. On Saturday, India added just 61 runs, with 21 coming off Pujara’s bat.
England are yet to win a Test match when both Swann and Panesar have played. “Thanks for bringing that up,” Swann told an English journalist. But if Cook and Kevin Pietersen continue to bat like they did on Day Two, that anomaly may cease to exist. Swann will probably have a nice laugh then. For now, it’s Panesar 5, Swann 4.