The substantial lead India have built in Trent Bridge seemed improbable after their performance at Lord’s and lends credence to my belief that you write this team off at your own peril.
The team has all the ingredients and nobody really doubts it; the only issue has been whether they can all gel together at the right time. It rarely is a team in harness when touring.
But so far in Trent Bridge they haven’t put a foot wrong. England hasn’t landed a punch yet in this Test.
But this is a funny game and India must guard against complacency. They must first expand the first innings lead as far as possible for the track suggests it wouldn’t get easier in the fourth innings.
The ball is keeping low and there are signs the pitch could get uneven. I was worried about the new ball inflicting damage on third morning. However, the way Sachin and Sourav safely negotiated the first few overs was a treat to watch.
If it was bowlers who were on the mark in England’s first innings, the batters were in sync when the reply began in the first hour of the second day. Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik couldn’t have chosen a better time to strike India’s best opening stand in nearly three decades in England. They now have a century stand in three successive series and that’s one problem less for the selectors.
Encouragingly, Karthik has blended in the role to the extent that he takes the first strike and is more pugnacious of the two. When an opener keeps rotating the strike and makes good use of the vacant spaces early in the innings, the bowlers forget the basics and resort to experimenting. That’s what the England bowlers did and that’s where their inexperience was exposed. This is a pitch where a regulation line for bowlers holds better promise.
Fortunately, the batsmen who followed weren’t willing to let go of the advantage. India were moving into a position of authority when bad light stopped play.
The good, old basics of the game have expressed themselves in this Test. If bowlers can lend variety and yet be disciplined; if openers can lay a platform, life is generally fun for a team. England have rarely found themselves in such a mess at home in the last six years.
If India go on to win, it would be a shot in the arm for Indian cricket. The debacle of the World Cup had disillusioned cricket fans. A win here would once again bring the flock in front of television sets; instead of catching up on the score on SMS alerts and news bulletins, the cricket-loving tribe would again spare hours for live action. Frankly, there is much riding on this game than just a win.