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Series safe, now bowlers must deliver

Indian bowlers will look forward to the last-day push to win the final Test against England, reports Rohit Mahajan.

cricket Updated: Aug 13, 2007 12:38 IST
Rohit Mahajan

On Sunday morning, the sun finally took a sabbatical — for the first time in days, the sky was overcast, the clouds were swelling and ready to pour, if only in moderation. For the first time in four days, conditions were not ideal for batting, and the bowlers were smiling.

At 26 minutes past 11, Monty Panesar was struck on his pad by Anil Kumble and Ian Howell, the man with the lethal finger, got it right, and England's first innings terminated at 345, 319 runs behind India. India chose to bat again — despite the perilous batting conditions, despite the massive lead, despite possessing the men who've swung the ball better throughout the series.

This choice, deemed the best of the two goods, will be discussed and dissected over the next few days — in virulence against Rahul Dravid and the think-tank if the game ends in a draw, with milder opprobrium if India win.

But 11.26 on Sunday morning, with clouds over his head, with runs in bank and a 1-0 lead to protect, was the time for Dravid to make a decision. And that was the time for the experts to make their verdict — hindsight may be a wonderful thing, but the game is played in real time, even though, the decision may have been made as long as a day ago.

The decision may or may not prove right, but we can try and fathom the depths of this decision, which seemed strange but was not really so. Dravid and India, to put it simply, did not want a Kolkata to be done to them — 1-0 up, they did not want England to do to them what they did to Australia six years ago. They wanted to close the doors on England, they wanted to bat the hosts out of the game.

The decision was revealing — it betrayed India's fears, their inability to trust their bowlers to bowl England out the second time within a reasonable total, and also their inability to trust the batsmen to chase a modest total on the last day. So India put two and two together and came up with the answer they deemed correct — a 1-0 series is precious, 2-0 would be fantastic but not worth the risk of making it 1-1.

Thus, for one last time, five Indian greats got to get one final fling in the middle in a Test in England .

Though the ball was swinging, and though India started brightly, disaster was never too far. Once Howell got rid of Wasim Jaffer — with another shocking error, for the ball that nailed Jaffer LBW would have cleared the stumps very easily — and Dinesh Karthik snicked and walked, the stage was set.

In walked Sachin Tendulkar, getting another ovation, to join Dravid, who too was on zero. The two masters, never to play a Test in England again, possessor of thousands and thousands of runs in cricket, had to add a hundred or two, to take India out of trouble and to bow out of England in glory. That was not to happen.

James Anderson, making the ball swing alarmingly both ways, had Tendulkar driving away from his body, the ball took the inside edge and made one horrible mess of the stumps. Eleven for three.

That put Dravid and Ganguly together in their last innings in England, 11 years after they debuted together at Lord's.

That was a miraculous partnership, and this one was extreme in its bizarreness. When Ganguly, in the touch of his life, was batting, the pitch looked entirely demon-free while, at the other end, Dravid was beaten, he struggled, mistimed the ball and it missed his bat's edge. They seemed to be batting on a different surface from each other, in a different match.

Thus Ganguly raced away, a striking force with mesmerising timing, leaving the men in the off-side standing and clapping. There was no false stroke, he was completely in control.

When they had added 65 runs — Dravid's share was five off the 67 balls he had faced — Ganguly fell, to Paul Collingwood for the second time in the game, this time legitimately. In the end England had 500 to chase. Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook survived 20 overs comfortably, so Monday promises to be a hard grind.


Scorecard



India

1st inns 664


England

1st inns (overnight: 326/9)


Tremlett not out 25


Panesar lbw b Kumble 9


Extras

(b-16, lb-12, w-10, nb-11) 49


Total

: 345


Fall of wkts

: 1-12, 2-78, 3-119, 4-124, 5-202, 6-288, 7-303, 8-305, 9-305.


Bowling

: Zaheer 22-13-32-3, Sreesanth 21-2-80-2, Kumble 29.1-7-94-3, RP 18-3-72-1, Ganguly 5-1-8-0, Tendulkar 7-0-26-1, Laxman 1-0-5-0.



India 2nd inns


Karthik c Collingwood b Tremlett 8


Jaffer lbw b Anderson 0


Dravid c Strauss b Collingwood 12


Tendulkar b Anderson 1


Ganguly c Strauss b Collingwood 57


Laxman not out 46


Dhoni c Prior b Tremlett 36


Kumble not out 8


Extras

(b-1, lb-5, nb-6) 12


Total

(For 6 wkts decl) 180


Fall of wkts

: 1-10, 2-10, 3-11, 4-76, 5-89, 6-158.


Bowling

: Anderson 15-8-34-2, Tremlett 15-2-58-2, Collingwood 10-1-24-2, Panesar 18-1-58-0.



England 2nd inns


Strauss batting 23


Cook batting 27


Extras

(lb-3, w-3) 6


Total

(For no loss; 20 overs) 56


Bowling

: Zaheer 6-0-15-0, Sreesanth 5-3-5-0, Kumble 5-1-21-0, RP 3-1-6-0, Tendulkar 1-0-6-0.