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HindustanTimes Fri,01 Aug 2014

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Lost in the garden of Eden
Nilankur Das, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, December 09, 2012
First Published: 00:19 IST(9/12/2012)
Last Updated: 02:19 IST(9/12/2012)
Virender Sehwag plays a shot during Day 4 of the 3rd Test Match against England at Eden Garden in Kolkata. PTI Photo

The bright side of India's humiliation on Saturday was that Test cricket would not have to stand up to a duel of popularity against local football and face another reality check.

Tickets for the season's first city derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan on Sunday afternoon at the 100,000-capacity Salt Lake stadium are sold out. In the morning at Eden though, India and England will be here again to complete the formalities. India lead by 32 runs with just one wicket in hand.

The darkest side of the humiliation would be a fight to sudden death, between India's middle-order and the bowling attack to prove which is worse. Fielding will come, a very close third.

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Bad bowling
The bowling lacked bite on a rank turner in Mumbai. It wasn't any better at the Eden.

The wicket here was not as bad, but there was enough purchase for the bowlers if they were consistent in hitting the right spots — slightly short of good length for medium-pacers and the roughs created by the bowlers' footmarks for the spinners.

India bowlers were disappointing on both fronts. In both innings during the third Test, when England had the ball, the wicket seemed lively.

It appeared lifeless when India were bowling and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha wanted everyone to buy his defence that there was nothing in it for the bowlers.

Well, on that wicket where England made 523, India in the own backyard, almost failed to get past that total batting twice. Roll back to Mumbai.

Take out Cheteshwar Pujara and R Ashwin's performance with the bat in the first innings. Add the remainder to the two outings here and you have a very dismal picture.

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A semblance of fight by the openers in the one-and-a-half hour of the first session on Day 4 was over the first ball post lunch. Graeme Swann managed to turn the ball from more than a foot outside the off and castled Virender Sehwag.

After a mix up with Sehwag in the first innings here, Gautam Gambhir hurried Pujara into another run out. England did not need a better pat to identify the panic and get their tails up.

From 86 without loss, to 6 for 122 happened in 79 minutes, 11 shy of a football match, in three overs less than an IPL innings. That was when skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was walking back, nicking James Anderson to first slip.

The last time India lost a match at Eden was against Pakistan in 1999. The last time India lost back-to-back Tests at home was against South Africa, in 2000. It was a two-match series. Here at least India have won one and still harbour a chance of squaring the series.

If this was a series of revenge, following the 0-4 loss to England away last summer, the visitors have left India scope for introspection. The selection panel sits here on Sunday to name the squad for the final Test and two T20 matches.

They surely have a problem. Among a few of them would be our leading off-spinner Ashwin. He has just nine wickets in three matches, a few of them of tail-enders.

But he happens to be India's fourth highest run-getter in the series, ahead of Yuvraj, Kohli, Tendulkar and skipper Dhoni.

And unbeaten on 83 with Ojha, Ashwin needs nine more runs to cross Gambhir, who on 214 is the third-highest scorer for India after Pujara and Sehwag. Do India have a cook who knits better than he chops?


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