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By Arunabha Sengupta
Jul 28, 2014
It started deceptively quiet, quickly turned into a violent storm and ended with a crucial strike on the Indian camp. England’s began the third session with methods akin to the proverbial calm before the storm. Jos Buttler, already enjoying the benefit of the third umpire’s decision before tea, drove hard at Mohammed Shami and was dropped at first slip by Shikhar Dhawan. India’s slip catching woes continued and the miss was about to backfire big time — almost literally. Buttler proceeded to light up the Rose Bowl with an innings of spectacular stroke-making.
For a while, though, it was quiet going. Only 23 came off the first eight overs, before the floodgates opened during the course of a Ravindra Jadeja over. Ian Bell slog-swept for four, and Buttler, a product of the modern times, reverse swept twice, for a boundary past point and then rather streakily through the wicketkeeper and slip for three. At the other end, the one-over spells from the seamers continued. Bell turned Pankaj Singh to deep square leg to bring up his 150. He was cutting loose with alarming speed. A length ball was swung over mid-on for four. The 500 of the innings was brought up by a severe Buttler blow off Jadeja, soaring over his head and clearing the Investec advertising boards in front of the sight screen. The following ball was once again reverse-swept for yet another boundary.
Bell continued to accelerate, lofting Shami over mid-off for a brace and following it up with a glorious pull for four. Runs were coming in fierce torrents. The 100 partnership between Bell and Buttler was notched in just 80 minutes off 21.5 overs, the second fifty in 45 balls. Bell celebrated by driving Jadeja through the covers for yet another classy boundary.
The next over from Kumar saw Buttler punching one into the off-side and scampering down for his 50th run. The debutant had got there in just 64 balls. Test cricket had proved both lucky and easy for the young man.
In the midst of all this mayhem, Bell charged down, trying to hit Kumar out of the ground. The ball went high rather than long, and Pankaj Singh ran around from mid-on to hold a skier. The man from Warwickshire walked back for 167, a stuttering start subsequently followed by strokes of sublime quality and style. The innings had been studded with 19 fours and three sixes.
At 534 for six, Chris Woakes joined Buttler. However, there was scant respite for the Indians. The wicketkeeper continued to throw his bat around, helped along the way by the easiest of missed stumping chances off Jadeja. Two sixes were swatted with disdain off Pankaj, followed by a slammed boundary, the perimeters crossed once too often for the comfort of the Indians.
The pair added 43 more in just five overs, full off scintillating fireworks from Buttler’s blade, before he dragged one from Jadeja to his stumps. The first foray into the crease had proved a thoroughly exhilarating experience. His 85 had come off 82 balls, full of the cleanest of strikes, nine of which went for fours and three for sixes. Cook declared predictably as Buttler walked back, England’s innings came to an end at 569 for seven, 117 having come in the 18.4 overs after tea. It left India 14 overs to survive till the end of the day.
The first six overs passed by without much alarm, the ball coming through nicely, hitting the middle of the bat when the deliveries were not wasted wide of the off-stump. And then James Anderson came round the wicket, angling it in to Shikhar Dhawan and moving it away. The southpaw fell for it again, getting squared up and playing at it, and captain Alastair Cook accepted the catch at first slip. The first wicket was down for 17. Dhawan’s horror tour continued, both with the bat and at first slip.
At the other end, Murali Vijay was calm and collected, leaving every delivery that he was not required to play — which amounted to most. The early success notwithstanding, the line of the opening bowlers of England left something to be desired.
Cheteshwar Pujara was greeted by an arc of five slips and a charging Anderson. A loud appeal for a catch at the wicket was rightly turned down — the inswinger had taken the thigh pad on the way to Buttler. Anderson hurried him from round the wicket, but he survived to fight another day.
Chris Jordan was given a spell from the Pavilion End and sprayed it around, often down the leg side. One raced away for four byes past Buttler. Except for one ball angled in to Pujara which got the inside edge, the bowler from Barbados did not manage to threaten the batsmen. The last over bowled by Chris Woakes, who looked harmless and was negotiated without too many problems. India finished at 25 for one, with a long day ahead on the morrow. Vijay, with already 41 balls played for his 11, will be required to essay another of his knocks of near infinite patience. It will also be the ideal situation for Pujara and Virat Kohli to script that elusive innings of substance, and for Rohit Sharma to justify his inclusion.
However, during the hour, only Anderson seemed to pose a few potent questions, while the rest seemed largely harmless. India do bat deep in this Test and on this track getting wickets is not really the easiest of tasks. Much will depend on how the batsmen negotiate the still new ball during the first hour of the third morning.
(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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