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India wage a grim battle at 145/4

A typical top order collapse, after bowlers had ruled, puts India on the back foot. Rohit Mahajan reports. Read on...
Hindustan Times | By Rohit Mahajan, London
UPDATED ON JUL 21, 2007 10:51 AM IST

Late in the evening, as dark clouds gathered again over Lord’s, James Anderson sent a ball that stung India, dismayed fans and altered the game. Swinging from outside off, the ball took an angular path, eluded the swinging bat and inevitably, struck the pads. Anderson and his mates went up in one almighty cry for justice before umpire Steve Bucknor thought for just a moment before raising his finger.

Sachin Tendulkar, face down like a malefactor brought to justice, slowly began the long walk back to the pavilion, while the England players, arms around each other, turned into one throbbing bundle of joy.

Tendulkar’s exit was a signal of hope for England — the master was cutting with power and great effect, and though his impetuosity made him go for a few wild shots, he was looking good for a big score. By his Lord’s standards, he did get a big one — his highest in three previous Tests here was 31 — but on Friday, India sought much more than the 37 he made.

On a changed Lord’s pitch, aided by rain and moisture, bowlers ruled. After routing England when play began late due to rain, India faced a real test. Ryan Sidebottom made the ball curl in and then leave the batsmen, Andersen bowled manfully, debutant Chris Tremlett was impressive.

In the third over, Wasim Jaffer was dropped when on 0, Matt Prior failing to take a regulation catch to his right. Sidebottom was making life difficult for the Indians, who had to summon every bit of their ability to keep the ball out of the stumps.

In the ninth over, Sidebottom finally got his man, trapping Karthik LBW. Rahul Dravid managed to keep away from disaster until the 12th ball he faced, from Anderson. The outswinger was pitched at perfect length, drew the skipper into a stroke and this time Prior was awake.

In walked Tendulkar, to huge applause, and played an interesting innings, cautious and impulsive in bursts. He did play some attractive shots behind point, a couple of them streaky.

Jaffer, meanwhile, went steadily, accumulating his singles and occasionally getting the boundary. Quite unobtrusively, he got to his half-century, his third against England.

Michael Vaughan was chary about getting Panesar on — the spinner came on in the 33rd over, was swept fine by Tendulkar, who became the third-highest Test scorer during the knock that wasn’t enough.

Then, as the shadows lengthened, Jaffer fell —he had been doing a good job of keeping aloof from balls that were not on the stumps. But finally, when Tremlett got one to rise on him, he weakly fended off the ball and the bowler dived full-length forward to take the catch. Sourav Ganguly has looked composed during his brief innings. The possibilities haven’t ended.

Earlier, at about 12.35 in the afternoon, Lord’s was dark as night, the rain was pelting down, the wind was howling and the sky was rumbling.

But outside, under the stands, an atmosphere of festivity prevailed — at the Cricketers’ Bar, it was party time. It seemed like a tavern scene from a period film, only the clothes were modern. Hundreds of spectators jostled in the gloom, a glass of beer in most hands. There was din, an uproar and great cheer as people sought to drown their grief.

At the gates, many people made their exits, the murky setting prompting the punters among men to peddle their tickets.
The players practised, even the unbeaten batsman Kevin Pietersen, who has been complaining of being fatigued and overworked. Then Lord’s changed, showing a yet new face.

Twelve minutes later, as if by magic, there was light — very bright sunlight, bathing the ground and gladdening the hearts. The pall of gloom was lifted, the effects of rain were wiped out with astounding alacrity.

The groundstaff worked hard, running the rope over the turf to sweep out the water, the covers were removed. Play began at 1.50 pm, nearly three hours after the scheduled start.

India took the new ball in the third over of the day, bowled by RP Singh — and immediately, Sidebottom lost his leg-stump. The real drama, though, was to come. Up next, Zaheer Khan bowled a tricky over to Pietersen; the fifth ball was edged low to MS Dhoni’s right. Dhoni dived and rose with the ball in his hand, his face a picture of delight. Simon Taufel raised his finger and Pietersen walked. Before he crossed the rope, Pietersen looked up to see his teammates frantically gesticulating at him — the replay had laid grounds for doubt, he returned to the middle, Taufel and Steve Bucknor sought the help of the TV umpire and he was ruled not out.

Dhoni could only shake his head in disbelief — but he was grinning barely five minutes later as Pietersen drove similarly at Zaheer, edged the ball and this time there was no doubt about the catch.

Sreesanth then took out Prior, Tremlett and Panesar, all leg-before; trying to shield Anderson, Ian Bell refused a single off the last ball of the 91st over but lost his wicket instead, bowled by Zaheer in the next over. The Indians, perhaps stung by criticism, bowled at the wickets and got the rewards.

England 1st innings
(Strauss c Dravid b Kumble 96, Cook lbw b Ganguly 36, Vaughan c Dhoni b RP Singh 79, Pietersen c Dhoni b Zaheer 37, Collingwood lbw b Kumble 0, Sidebottom b RP Singh 1, Bell b Zaheer 20, Prior lbw b Sreesanth 1, Tremlett lbw b Sreesanth 0, Panesar lbw b Sreesanth 0, Anderson not out 0).
Extras (b-9, lb-10, w-7, nb-2) 28
Total: 298
Fall of wkts: 1-76, 2-218, 3-252, 4-255, 5-272, 6-286, 7-287, 8-287, 9-297.
Bowling: Zaheer 18.2-4-62-2, Sreesanth 22-8-67-3, RP Singh 17-6-58-2, Ganguly 9-3-24-1, Kumble 23-2-60-2, Tendulkar 2-0-8-0.
India 1st innings
(Karthik lbw b Sidebottom 5, Jaffer c & b Tremlett 58, Dravid c Prior b Anderson 2, Tendulkar lbw b Anderson 37, Ganguly batting 25, RP Singh batting 5).
Extras (b-4, lb-7, nb-2) 13
Total (For 4 wickets) 145
Fall of wkts: 1-18, 2-27, 3-106, 4-134.
Bowling: Sidebottom 16-4-48-1, Anderson 15-5-26-2, Tremlett 15-8-29-1, Collingwood 3-1-9-0, Panesar 8-3-22-0.

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