Team India has tough task ahead
England lost Strauss and Bell in their 2nd innings at stumps on the third day for an overall lead of 152. ScorecardUpdated: Mar 20, 2006 19:59 IST
One more day has gone by with the Indians chasing the English shadows in their own home.
This Test match has England's name written all over it unless of course Anil Kumble again bowls a magic spell, and fielders, unlike in the first innings, don't drop the catches that are expected to be taken at this level.
Else it is definitely going to be another long day on a wicket, barring the odd wear and tear, still a good one to bat on.
And on this wicket England were 152 runs ahead with eight wickets in hand at stumps on day three of the third Test. England were 31/2 in their second innings and that was after their bowlers had restricted India to 279, gaining a 121-run first innings lead.
Rahul Dravid needed wickets. The fielding captain always needs them. But on Monday, the need was more as his team had just conceded a big first innings lead.
He gave the new ball to Munaf Patel, to partner Irfan Pathan. And he delivered for the captain in his third over with Andrew Strauss being the victim.
When Munaf came around the wicket, the first innings centurion drove, but all he could manage was an outside edge, which MS Dhoni accepted diving to his front.
That might have inspired Sreesunth who replaced Pathan. He bowled the perfect one and Ian Bell didn't know whether to go forward or stay back, eventually giving Dhoni his second catch.
England didn't want to lose any more wicket. Shaun Udal came in to do the nightwatchman's job only to get a scare as he was squared up by Sreesunth. The ball went past his bat, pad and off stump like a runaway thief.
But he survived to face another day with Owasis Shah (15 not out in 26 balls, 2 fours) who, after his first innings 88, looks good for another big one in the second innings.
When faced with the situation of saving a Test, every run counts. For India, Kumble and Sreesunth were not only scoring, they frustrated the Englishmen after tea.
More often than not, you can trust Kumble to get some valuable runs. And he did it again on Monday. Cutting, slashing over slip, boundaries were flowing for him, but he was up to the task whenever his stumps were attacked.
With him was Sreesunth who grabbed the chance to show that he was no novice with the bat.
It was more than two years ago that he helped Hemang Badani complete a hundred while playing for Board President XI against New Zealand in a three-day match at Rajkot.
That day it was Daryl Tuffey who bouncing him with the ball and lip, this day it was Andrew Flintoff, arguably the best fast bowler who was trying to intimidate him.
But Sreesunth (29 not out in 53 balls, 4 fours) won't relent. He drove, cut and made room to hit over mid-on and Flintoff was forced to bring Monty Panesar to whom Kumble (30 in 70 balls, 3 fours) tried in vain to sweep and was lbw.
That might have ended the very fine 55-run partnership for the 10th wicket between Kumble and Sreesunth, but what it could never end was the fact that these two Indian tailenders had shown their famed batting line-up that it was indeed a good wicket to bat on.
Two overs later James Anderson (4/40) bowled Munaf Patel (7) who had earlier played a straight drive of his own.
With that came the end of the Indian innings at 279. It could have been even less. One person who could have asked for more was Anderson.
The swing bowler took four wickets for the record. But it was the way he bowled, matching Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard in everything and surpassing them in the wicket's column!
Flintoff never shies away from taking a gamble. Like soldiers who get desperate for women during long wars, Dhoni and Pathan were hungry for runs.
Flintoff tempted them by presenting Udal and Panesar and Dhoni couldn't resist, dancing down the wicket only to mis-time.
Flintoff had men at the deep, barring one slip and the forward short leg. The England captain was showing that he had his own style while leading the side.
Of course, that also gave the pacers, including himself, an extended rest after lunch. Doing the hard work they way they did under the morning sun, they deserved this support from their veteran offie and young left-arm-spinner.
And they didn't disappoint.
Udal was bowling much better than Saturday. Pathan saw his edge falling short of slip, and one leaning edge beat a diving Strauss at short fine-leg. Eventually Pathan (26 in 82 balls, 2 fours) fell. Running out of patience, he lofted but failed to beat the man at long off.
After the rush of blood, Dhoni patiently completed his half century. It was a strange day which saw Dhoni waiting for the bad balls to hit boundaries. But that showed that the man had many parts, and his effort helped India avoid the follow on.
After Pathan's fall, Flintoff took the new ball and bowled. Dhoni (64 in 118 balls, 10 fours) thought time had come to attack. He pulled, drove and guided one in between second slip and gully. Three fours in three balls. The next, an inswinging yorker which Dhoni managed to play to mid on and ran, but failed to beat James Anderson's throw.
That was the end of the top scorer of the Indian innings.
Could Harbhajan Singh share a partnership with Anil Kumble again? Mumbai didn't see the repeat of Mohali. Harbhajan tried to cut Anderson, but the ball was too close to his body to play that stroke and Geraint Jones took what was his fifth catch of the innings.
India 218/8. No wonder why Flintoff was grinning while leading his men to the pavilion for a cup of tea.
India got the biggest blow of the day when they lost Dravid.
The Indian captain was fortunate in the previous over of Anderson to whom he eventually fell, trying to glance to give Jones his fourth catch.
England took lunch with a smile after seeing the back of Dravid (52), their nemesis for long.
India were 153/5 with Dhoni (32 not out) and Pathan (7 not out) in the middle.
Anderson could not stop smiling when he scripted Dravid fall, by tempting him to glance. Only in his previous over, he saw Udal at gully dropping Dravid off his own bowling.
In the same over, he had lost the chance to dismiss Dhoni (on 23 then) who was dropped by Panesar at mid off. Anderson deserves a pat on the back for not losing his heart.
Dhoni was hit on the helmet by Flintoff who was soon to get the reply! Dhoni pulled him to mid wicket fence and then hit him on the rise to cover.
Once again Indians were pushed to the limit. Once again it was Dravid (52 in 154 balls, 6 fours) who was trying to bring life to a dying innings.
He lost Yuvraj Singh in the morning, but that could not stop him from keeping the Englishmen at bay. He completed what was another half century under pressure.
Knowing that the visitors never enjoy the humid Mumbai, he kept the fielders busy by cleverly running for singles with Dhoni, a man who doesn't know how to run slow.
Result, there were two over throws, which you only seldom see in Test cricket.
Dhoni was playing his strokes, Dravid was defending everything that these three fine England seamers -- Flintoff, Matthew Hoggard and Anderson -- were throwing, or rather bowling at him.
It was an engrossing battle out there!
The day started with Yuvraj flicking Hoggard for the prettiest three runs you would ever see. But sometimes, for the sake of your team, you have to look ugly.
This is where Yuvraj (37 in 55 balls, 6 fours) missed the trick, by trying to take the attack to the opposition. Flintoff's final ball of his first over of the day was the last ball Yuvraj played on Monday.
It wasn't a wicket taking ball. There was too much movement, Yuvraj wanted to cut, only to see his edge carrying to slip where keeper Jones dived as much as he could to his left to take the catch.
Maybe, he wanted to prove a point to Flintoff who didn't give him any room in the first five balls. But that cost the team his valuable wicket.
India: Virender Sehwag, Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesunth, Munaf Patel.
England: Andrew Strauss, O Shah, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Geraint Jones, Matthew Hoggard, S Udal, James Anderson, Monty Panesar.
First Published: Mar 20, 2006 09:33 IST