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India vs England Test: Sweat & spunk

Sunday, 18 November 2012 - 3:48am IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
After a shoddy batting display in the first innings, England openers resist India in the second dig to keep alive their hopes of saving the opening Test.

At home, India are a hammer looking for the nails, an inexhaustible force, difficult to contain. Dusty wickets and wristy spinners add to their Test might and they crush the opponents here like a hammer crushes the nails. No wonder England have not beaten India in India for close to 28 years.

On Saturday, Alastair Cook & Co tried to resist an otherwise irresistible force and made a strong bid to prevent India from running away with the first Test. With two more days to play and 219 runs to wipe out India’s first innings total, England are far from safe. But they have made a beginning.

Following on, the visitors have given themselves the best possible start in their pursuit to deny India a 1-0 lead. They could not have asked more from their openers, Cook and Nick Compton, who have finished the day on 111 for no loss. It’s a score that would have made Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co jittery. “We’re behind but not out of the Test,” said Matt Prior. “We sure think the Test can be saved.”

England’s fightback was surprising, particularly after the way they collapsed in the first innings. But then, it also spoke volumes about the character of this side, which could be a tough opponent for the home team.

India are still favourites to win the Test but Pragyan Ojha, who has had a five-wicket haul in England’s first innings, and R Ashwin, will have to work hard to get the 10 English wickets. Going by the way Cook and Compton batted in last session, it would not be easy for the Indian spinners. As Ojha, the best Indian bowler of the day, said the first session of Day Four would be crucial to the outcome of the match.

In the morning, Ashwin was erratic in his length but Ojha hit the rhythm straight away. The left-arm spinner troubled the batsman with teasing length and variation in line. Cook and Pietersen, who resumed at 41 for three, tried to smother the spin coming forward but their resistance crumbled under relentless attack from the Indians.

Pietersen misread the line of a ball and found his middle stump uprooted. Drama followed his dismissal as Ian Bell showed misplaced bravado first up, going after Ojha off the very first ball he faced. Sachin Tendulkar took a well-judged catch to give the bowler a chance for a hat-trick. Cook prevented a three in three but the England captain failed to last too long.

Ashwin, brought for his second spell, dismissed the left-hander with a classic off-spinner’s delivery that took the edge of the bat and reduced England to 80 for six.

Runs were not easy to come by and England were playing as if the Indians were bowling with a white ball with a white sight screen in the backdrop. The visitors moved to 100 in the 49th over but not before Samit Patel was trapped lbw by Umesh Yadav who struck instantly after being introduced in the 48th over.

Matt Prior, who had a reprieve from Zaheer Khan in the deep, added 47 for the eighth wicket with Tim Bresnan but once Ojha forced an edge from the latter, the end was not very far. Stuart Broad played a few big shots but England lost him and Prior in quick succession to be bowled out for 191, 22.2 overs into the second session.

Ojha deserved his five-for but Ashwin, the lead spinner, was not his usual incisive self. He had only a wicket to show in the 35 overs — across two innings — he bowled on the day. Dhoni would be looking more from him on the morrow.




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