For eight overs on a bright Sunday morning, Ryan Sidebottom gave Sachin Tendulkar hell. The master was beaten left, right and centre — he was beaten in attack and beaten in defence, beaten on the front foot and on the back. And when the ball did take the bat’s edge, it fell short of the man in the second slip.
<b1>Sidebottom’s first spell on Sunday read 9-6-7-0 — eight overs had been sent down to Tendulkar, and the master’s takeaway from them was negligible, except for the embarrassment of being beaten with such regularity.
Thus, ironically, when Tendulkar did go finally, it was an embarrassing decision by Simon Taufel. To the last ball of the first over after lunch, bowled by Paul Collingwood, Tendulkar offered no stroke — the ball had pitched outside off and was going over the stumps. The Englishmen appealed and after a long reflection, Taufel raised his finger. As the fielders crowed around him, Tendulkar seemed stunned, rooted to the ground. He finally walked off, shaking his head. Another dismissal in the 90s on this tour.
Sourav Ganguly, on the other hand, had been relatively untroubled — even as Sidebottom raised groans in the stands every over, Ganguly feasted on Chris Tremlett and James Anderson. When Panesar was thrown into the battle, both Ganguly and Tendulkar took him on and came away with valuable runs.
Ganguly played attractive strokes on the off-side, of course, and hooked one for six when Anderson bounced him.
With lots of luck and skill, the two batsmen ground the England bowling attack, and put India on top before their march was halted by that decision by Taufel.
Ganguly and VVS Laxman added 67 runs for the fifth wicket — facing 141 balls in the process. The pace of scoring could have been quicker, but India had the luxury of time.
The cricket was soporific, and the crowd was roused from its reverie when Anderson struck Ganguly on the pad and raised an almighty shout — Ganguly gained his revenge by placing the ball past the slips for four. Then Anderson bowled one down the legside, there was a sound as the bat probably flicked the ground, and Taufel raised his finger.
VVS Laxman played a peculiar innings; he got his half-century all right, and hit some lovely drives, but there was a time in the afternoon when he got bogged down — when he did fall finally, he had not scored a run off 24 balls. Sidebottom’s subjugation of Tendulkar was the leitmotif of the day, a period when the crowd was abuzz and the tension palpable. But the game became sleepy in the afternoon as England pulled the field in and dried up the singles.
The Indians paid too much respect to men like Collingwood before Sidebottom’s second coming, to bowl the 125th over of the innings, livened things. Sidebottom was the unluckiest of the bowlers and had to wait for until his 33rd for his first wicket.
Slow place of runs was not really a worry for India — rain had been forecast for Sunday, but it was beautiful and sunny the whole day, excellent batting conditions. It had rained in the night, and the groundstaff had been up since dawn, soaking the water with the Super Sopper.
There was action towards the end of the day — India lost their last four wickets for 17 runs, and there was drama when Kevin Pietersen exchanged pleasantries with Zaheer Khan.
At the end of it all, though, it was Sidebottom’s mastery of Tendulkar that stood out. Sidebottom suffered equally, clutching his golden locks after each reprieve, disbelief on his expressive visage.
England (1st innings): 198
India (1st innings):
Karthik c Cook b Panesar 77
Jaffer c Prior b Tremlett 62
Dravid c Bell b Panesar 37
Tendulkar lbw b Collingwood 91
Ganguly c Prior b Anderson 79
Laxman c Prior b Tremlett 54
Dhoni c Prior b Sidebottom 5
Kumble c Prior b Tremlett 30
Zaheer not out 10
RP Singh lbw b Panesar 0
Sreesanth lbw b Panesar 2
Extras: (b-16, lb-16, w-1, nb-1) 34
Total: (all out, in 158.5 overs) 481
Fall of wkts: 1-147, 2-149, 3-246, 4-342, 5-409, 6-414, 7-464, 8-473, 9-474.
Bowling: Ryan Sidebottom 36-11-75-1, James Anderson 33-4-134-1, Chris Tremlett 40-13-80-3, Paul Collingwood 16-3-59-1, Monty Panesar 33.5-8-101-4.
England (2nd innings):
Strauss batting 21
Cook batting 17
Extras: (b-2, lb-1, w-1, nb-1) 5
Total: (for no loss, at stumps, in 16 overs) 43
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 5-2-14-0, S. Sreesanth 3-0-10-0 (nb-1, w-1), R.P. Singh 4-2-4-0, Anil Kumble 3-0-10-0, Sourav Ganguly 1-0-2-0.