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By Arunabha Sengupta
Nottingham: Jul 10, 2014
James Anderson’s run up to the wicket after the break said volumes about the English spirit. The tread was tardy, the walk back ginger, the ball given just the apologetic brush on the trousers. The two Indian tail-enders had managed what the top-order had left underdone — they had successfully sucked hope out of the home side.
With Mohammed Shami growing in confidence, Bhuvneshwar Kumar looked set for a slot in the middle-order, with the temperament and inclination for constructing long innings, ready to wait and bide his time till the loose ball came his way. Shami on the other hand showed the tail-ender’s inclination for flourish and glory, but with time and fortune the strokes found the middle of the bat and the frayed edge of the England nerves.
A crisp drive off Anderson brought up Bhuvneshwar’s half-century off 133 balls. And the very next delivery was nonchalantly hoisted over long-on to bring up Shami’s 50 as well, in just 73 balls. The partnership now stood at 102.
Moeen Ali was brought in, and Bhuvneshwar hoisted him over mid-off for four. The next ball was lofted, but gained height rather than distance, and the entire England team and their supporters around the stadium heaved a sigh of relief as Joe Root held at long on. Bhuvneshwar walked back for 58. Shami’s effort resulted in an unbeaten 51, taking him past Ghulam Ahmed and placing him just behind Zaheer Khan’s 75 among top-scores by Indian No 11s.
This also marked only the third time that two of India’s Nos. 9, 10 and Jack  had managed two fifties between themselves. Nana Joshi had struck an unbeaten 52 after Ramakant Desai’s 85 against Pakistan at Brabourne in 1960-61 and Kiran More’s 50 had been followed up by Atul Wassan’s 53 at Eden Park in 1990.
The stand had been worth 111 runs of joy and hilarity. No matter which team one supports, the success of men of inferior ability always carries with it a sense of hope and cheer. Even the most assiduously working journalist in the press box could not suppress a smile and a chuckle as bowlers of repute were threaded through the ground by the two.
The Indian total was 456 looked imposing. Predictably, Bhuvneshwar and Shami, fresh from their exploits with the willow, was asked to share the shiny cherry. Hence, Ishant Sharma, with 55 Tests under his belt, four of them in England, was asked to wait as two men with six Tests each opened the attack.
The very first over saw Bhuvneshwar beat the bat of Sam Robson with one shaping away and then produce an edge that died down before reaching Ravindra Jadeja at third slip. Shami, however, was not able to generate deviation. Yet, it was he who broke through. The England captain moving across for a deflection to the leg, and the ball ricocheted off the thigh pad and struck the leg-stump. The nightmare for the captain continues and fate keeps manufacturing new ways to humiliate him.
With a day of dreams with everything he touched turning to gold, Shami got one to seam away, leaving Robson fishing tentatively outside the off stump. He followed it up with a full toss on the legs and was flicked out towards the long boundary for three. The last ball of the over got the edge of the bat of Gary Ballance and went to third slip on the bounce. While Bhuvneshwar got the odd ball to bounce sharply, something that had seemed beyond the scope of the English bowlers, Shami brought one back and it passed perilously close to the top of Robson’s off-stump and induced a rather injudicious attempted pull from Ballance.
Ishant replaced Kumar from the Radcliffe Road End, bowling with four slips for Ballance. Three balls of pointed beard and bouncing mane — a short leg was added and Ishant switched to round the wicket. The line was steady, outside off. The batsmen were prepared to ignore any incitement. One ball from his second over found the edge of Ballance’s bat and reached slip on the bounce. The batsman responded with a drive through the covers. In the following over, he induced another snick and it fell short of Ajinkya Rahane at second slip.
After 11 overs, Jadeja was introduced from the Pavilion end, introducing variation but little drama. Runs came in nudges. Three men crouched close to the bat, but there was no turn yet to keep them eager.
As shadows lengthened and England batted for the stumps, there were some voices as Ishant ran in to bowl — loud, Indian and not always very flattering. But, to be fair, the bowler maintained a good line and occasionally managed to ask probing questions. On one occasion, he got some bounce as well.
With two overs remaining in the day, Stuart Binny was given a bowl and trundled through an uneventful over, pace just about medium, movement non-existent.
England ended the day on 43 for one, both Robson and Ballance showing signs of settling down. There have been some tense moments for the batsmen, but the pitch looks easy enough.The captain seems temporarily forsaken by fortune, the other batsmen are not expected to be easy prey. The bowling needs discipline and India is well served with a spinner of far better credentials than Moeen to block one end. It remains to be seen whether Shami and Bhuvneshwar will be able to play another stellar role by reversing the older ball on Day Three. But their unexpected knocks have given India the upper hand.
(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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