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By Arunabha Sengupta
Nottingham: Jul 12, 2014
The Indians among the spectators, eager for an entertaining weekend, finally had something to cheer about in the short second session.
The tedium of the morning was finally terminated in the fifth over after the delayed lunch, with Anderson finally edging one from Bhuvneshwar Kumar to slip. But, it was not before Joe Root had essayed another crisp on-drive to bring up his 150. The England No 11 was stopped at 81, perhaps the closest he will ever get to a century unless the cricket world is buried to death under such graveyard pitches all around the world. An unfortunate gentleman by the curious name of Simon Wizzle had been so absorbed in the last wicket partnership that he had boarded the wrong train without quite realising it. The dismissal allowed him to get off and take the right one.
India commenced their innings at forty past two in the afternoon,some three and a half hours after they had expected, the sun having disappeared behind some high whitish cloud cover. After coming to the brink of enforcing follow on, they now trailed by 39.
After 145 overs of near inaction in the slips, Shikhar Dhawan started with a cut to the boundary off Stuart Broad followed by a streaky steer. Murali Vijay went through some anxious moments, snicking Anderson through the slips, poking at ones outside the off-stump and almost playing a delivery on to his stumps on another occasion. A cover driven boundary helped him steady his nerves.
The initial jitters, appended perhaps by the frustrations of the field, submerged with a few well timed strokes, both the batsmen proceeded to play some lovely deflections off the toes.
Anderson, rather gingerly after the unusually long vigil at the wicket, was taken off after four overs. Liam Plunkett replaced him from the Radcliffe Road End. Dhawan cut him, and it fell just short of Ben Stokes at backward point. Two balls later, the batsman essayed a magnificent drive off the back foot through the covers. Not for the first time in the day, scores were level.
In the next over, the easy pace of the wicket was underlined when Vijay drilled a short of good length ball from Broad off the front foot to the cover boundary.
With eight minutes to go for tea, Moeen Ali was introduced. Dhawan swept his second delivery for four. The fourth ball was a low full toss, Dhawan came down the wicket and smacked it straight back to the bowler.The old adage of never hitting a full toss to the bowler has its merits. India were 49 for one.
Moeen was given a flattering two slips and two short legs for Cheteshwar Pujara. Two balls remained in the over and both were driven for boundaries. It takes more than one dismissal for a club class off-spinner to intimidate Indian batsmen.
India went into tea at 57 for one, 18 ahead of England. Pujara went into the break with a strike rate of 400. The wicket has not produced any demons as yet. Rashness and inexperience are the only evils that can lead India into jeopardy at the moment.
Perhaps the game would have been alive had Root gone for runs rather than survival even after England were in a secure position, not even allowing Anderson much of the strike to pursue his jolly carefree tactics. On a surface prepared for stalemate, enterprise is the sole course for excitement. Sadly, the last wicket partnership, although miraculous, may have killed the Test match.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry.He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)
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