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Indians build bridge to dominance

After restricting England to 198, Indian batsmen pile on runs after runs on Day 2 of the second Test, reports Rohit Mahajan.

cricket Updated: Jul 29, 2007 11:36 IST
Rohit Mahajan

The first ball after tea on the second day of the second Test, Monty Panesar struck — trying to flick the ball, Dinesh Karthik edged it to his pad. Alastair Cook, at short leg, dived a full body length to his left and caught the ball. Panesar ran amok, and Karthik refused to budge, stunned by the suddenness of his end, but had to walk.



That brought in Sachin Tendulkar to join Rahul Dravid — both were on zero, for Wasim Jaffer had departed just minutes before tea. The pitch had seemed docile, the bowlers innocuous till they sent the openers back, though Panesar had two good appeals against Jaffer and Karthik.



But now, two wickets had changed the game, in the mind at least.



On the face of it, India were still ahead — at 149 for two, they were just 49 short of the England total, with much batting to come.



Buoyed by the two wickets, England, though, suddenly raised the game, and then began the most thrilling part of the day's cricket. For 42 overs they had struggled for a wicket, and their desperation mounted with the Indian score. Ryan Sidebottom and James Anderson became more and more chirpy — unable to bowl successfully at the stumps, they began to direct volleys at the batsmen's bodies. Then in a space of three overs, they got two wickets, and the game became less unequal.



In the stands, their spirits raised by the wickets — incidentally, the stand closest to the tavern was the noisiest — England's supports sang and danced, greeting each false stroke or appeal with a massive roar.



With fielders crowding the batsmen, and the bowlers coming in with renewed vigour, it was a nervous time for Dravid and Tendulkar to begin with. There were a couple of maiden overs, and runs came in a trickle. Dravid then began to open up, and Tendulkar followed suit.



Dravid hit Panesar for a lovely four behind point, and then gave the same treatment to Anderson. Runs began to flow again, India were beginning to close in on England.



Then, in the 54th over, bowled by Anderson, the stands erupted — Tendulkar had been struck on his helmet grille. He could not evade one that kept coming on to him. The battle was on in earnest, and Anderson followed it up with another bouncer.



In Anderson's next over, Tendulkar got back when he cut deliberately over the slips, and Dravid added to the punishment with two fours.



The shackles had been cast off, and India were up and away. Tendulkar was timing the ball well and finding the boundaries, one of which took him past 11,000 runs in Test cricket — just another milestone in a journey filled with fantastic records.



It was anti-climactic when Dravid went — just reaching out to jab Panesar, he lobbed the ball and Ian Bell dived to complete the catch.



Earlier, on a bright Saturday morning, as the pitch dried and the conditions eased, India took control of the Test.



Apart from the freakish shower that lasted seconds on Friday, it hadn't rained here for 20 hours — and the change from Friday was marked.



The ball wasn't swinging as much, the movement off the pitch was visibly diminished — the game had changed. The batsmen could stand up and drive through the line when the ball was pitched up.



The Indian openers were troubled only by balls that came in and straightened — or by the ones that rose outside off stump as they tried to drive. With the pitch drying, the bounce became pronounced, making it imperative for the bowlers to pitch it up to get lbws. And that was playing right into the hands of Karthik and Jaffer. Karthik, as always, was more aggressive at the start, while Jaffer scored his first run off the 11th ball he faced. By then, Karthik had raced to 15.



The openers completed their second half-centuries and England's troubles increased.



Sidebottom, in altered conditions, was a different bowler altogether — there was no serious appeal against the Indians the whole morning. Anderson was ineffective for the most, and though the ball beat the bat several times, there were no real chances.



There was a chance off Chris Tremlett when Jaffer drove him to the left of Ian Bell at gully — Bell flew to his left and got his hand to the ball but it spilled out.



In the morning, Sidebottom had remained unbeaten on 18 as Anil Kumble picked up two of the last three England wickets. Zaheer Khan dismissed No 10 Monty Panesar for 1 to finish with four wickets in the innings.