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Pragyan Ojha spins England into same old trap

Captain Cook leads visitors' fightback in the second innings after India's spin twins, R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, force them to follow on, Sanjjeev K Samyal reports. Scoreboard

india Updated: Nov 18, 2012 10:35 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal

Jonathan Trott and Nick Compton cut a forlorn figure during England's nets session before the third day's play. They stood near the bowling crease as mere spectators even as their teammates worked hard on strengthening their defence against spin.

Their subdued demeanour could be attributed to R Ashwin, who had sent them packing on Day Two, when India had reduced the visitors to 41 for 3.

The lanky India off-spinner had bowled Compton through the gate and had Trott caught at short-leg.

Spin scared
With spin again becoming a worrying factor for the touring side, their dejected look certainly wasn't helping the confidence of the batsmen to follow. Such dismissals can set off panic in the ranks, and it indeed was the case on Saturday.

The entire middle order was in attendance in the morning, but it seemed they had no clear strategy. Coach Andy Flower had a brief chat with Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior, but the pep talk didn't look like having the desired effect.

Off-spin was the theme of the session. Steve Finn bowled to Samit Patel and Jonny Bairstow sent down a few overs to Pietersen, while Prior took the help of his support staff.

Skipper Alastair Cook was the only one who had a relaxed look about him, managing a smile as he warmed up with a jog and some light stretching exercises.

It was obvious that the three late-evening blows on Friday were playing on the England players' minds. It reflected in the tentative manner in which they faced the Indian spinners - Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha - when the third day's proceedings commenced.

Even as the visitors psyched themselves up to play the lanky Chennai bowler, they forgot that India's left-arm spinner, Ojha, could be equally potent.

The Hyderabad bowler quietly ran through the middle order, grabbing five wickets to bundle out England for 191.

Ojha snared Pietersen and Ian Bell off consecutive balls to reduce England to 69 for five. By lunch, England were tottering at 110 for 7, still requiring 212 to make India bat again.

The key to playing any bowler lies in being able to read his deliveries. The Indian bowlers, being finger spinners, can be more difficult to pick given the subtle changes they can impart at the last minute.

To say that this England line-up looked clueless against the slow bowlers would be stating the obvious. And, experts were quick to pass judgement on the visitors with former England skipper, Michael Vaughan, tweeting: "It's now absolutely official… This England side cannot play spin… 4-0 is definitely on the cards."

Clueless Pietersen
When play resumed on Day Three, all eyes were on Pietersen. Being their best batsman - and with all his IPL experience -he was expected to show the way. He made his intentions clear from the first delivery he faced --- dancing down to the pitch of the ball. Ojha was ready with the bait.

The left-arm spinner drifted the ball in at yorker length as KP tried to charge or slip it behind the legs. With their star batsman hopping around clueless, the psychological battle had been lost.

Pietersen was lucky to escape a couple of close leg-before shouts, a stumping chance and a leading edge, which fell short of cover point, before being bowled by the left-arm spinner.

In their second dig, the England openers showed better resolve, putting together an unbroken 111-run partnership. But, the effort may have come too late to save the game.

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