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India live on prayer and hope

Batsmen find the going tough on a slow wicket as England shake the top order yet again. Anand Sachar reports.

india Updated: Dec 15, 2012 11:38 IST
Anand Sachar

Despite repeated batting failures, there is always the hope that India's resurgence with the willow is round the corner. After all, the nation boasts of a rich history of world-class batsmen. With another collapse staring in the face, it remains to be seen how long will the famed batting line-up continue to inspire confidence.

Apart from the series against the West Indies and New Zealand at home, India failed to cross the 300-run mark in the eight Tests spread across England and Australia in the last season. Though India have put up better totals in the ongoing series, England have bettered them and grabbed a 2-1 lead.

False hope
When Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir walked out to open the innings at the Jamtha Stadium on Friday, the crowds cheered them in the hope that the duo would give India a solid start in the last of the four-Test series. The spectators were expecting a fitting reply to England's 330 on Day Two.

However, once again, hope died a premature death. It was the third ball of the innings when James Anderson produced a beautiful in-swinger, which rattled Sehwag's timber.

So often in cricket, controversial decisions leave a bad taste in the mouth. It happened to Alastair Cook on Thursday and it was Cheteshwar Pujara's turn on Friday. Pujara was given 'caught' at short-leg despite replays showing the ball hitting his lower right arm. However, the strength of a team lies in how it bounces back.

On Friday afternoon, things seemed far from positive for India. Sachin Tendulkar was the next man in, but he fell cheaply again, this time clean bowled by Anderson. The in-swinging delivery, which kept low, caught the inside edge of the bat before crashing into his middle stump.

Next, Gambhir tried to drive Anderson but only managed to nick it to Matt Prior. At stumps, India were 87 for four from 41 overs. Trailing the visitors by 243 runs, the home team's lower-middle order will have to apply itself well to make a match of it.

The breakthroughs
Earlier in the day, India skipper, MS Dhoni, looked confident as he went about making field placements and rotating his bowlers. As soon as R Ashwin cleaned up Prior, Ishant Sharma replaced him. The change worked as the lanky bowler trapped Tim Bresnan leg before.

However, debutant Joe Root guided England, who had resumed at 199 for five, to a competitive score. The 21-year-old's determination was there for all to see, as he came in a couple of hours before the start of play to receive throw-downs.

Root used the sweep shot effectively against spinners. It was a rare false shot that brought an end to an innings high on concentration. He stepped out to Piyush Chawla only to hand him a return catch. Emboldened by the wicket, Chawla unleashed his most potent weapon - the googly to clean up the tail.