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By Arunabha Sengupta
Ageas Bowl: Jul 30, 2014
England did not take too long to knock over the remaining Indian wickets. Predictably, they did not risk their fast bowlers steaming in again under the blistering sun. Riding on the cushion of a huge lead, they tarried just about long enough for the new ball to spend its shine and vagaries before launching on a spree of quick scoring, the eye on the clock and declaration. They lost a couple of wickets in the process but with the assets amounting to 319 runs, the hosts will not mind it too much.
The morning took off with birthday boy, James Anderson fired the final two deliveries of the first over of the day wide of the stumps on either side. MS Dhoni flayed at each of them but they were too far away. The ploy was clear. A cat and mouse game was on the cards. England wanted to bowl at Mohammed Shami and the Indian captain wanted the strike.
However, the said game was short and not that sweet for the Indians. It was mighty Dhoni who fell first. Anderson bounced, it swung in to the Indian captain, and the attempted hook went straight up in the air off the glove. Jos Buttler waited patiently and down it came into the secure clasp of his big gloves. England had got the major wicket in just the third over. Yet, in the lunchroom of the media centre, Steve Harmison and Phil Tufnell reached a consensus that follow-on would not be enforced.
The giant form of Pankaj Singh strode in, the bat a glorified ladle in his hand. There was an air of expectancy around the ground as he took guard. The Indian No 11 did not disappoint. The front leg was cleared with a plonk towards mid-on, the bat was swiped in mighty arcs. Very few connected, and the ones that did hit all parts of the bat but the middle. It was back to the good old days of quaint tail end batting.
But he was the one who went back with the not out against his name. Anderson sent another short one into the body, and Shami, swaying backward, could not quite get his glove away. The Lancashire paceman had thus taken three wickets with bouncers that got big on the batsmen. If you hit the deck hard on this wicket, there was some purchase on offer. The England spearhead finished with 26.1-10-53-5. The lead was an imposing 239.
However, immediately as Buttler completed the catch Sam Robson was seen sprinting out of the ground and up the pavilion steps. After a word with the umpire Cook jogged behind him. It was evident that they would be fastening their pads and pulling on their gloves. And soon Ray Markham, the inimitable scorer in the press box, announced that England would bat again.
Robson’s sprint showed a sense of purpose that was carried to the crease. There was considerable urgency with which he approached the innings, dispatching Bhuvneshwar Kumar in front of point with two crisp cut shots, and in between threading him through the on side.
Bhuvneshwar, rather pedestrian to start with, came back strongly. The good-length ball moved away after hitting the deck and Robson edged after being committed on his forward push. The edge flew to Shikhar Dhawan in the first slip and was pouched beside the waist. The first wicket was down early. At the other end, Pankaj Singh, given the new ball instead of Shami, worked up a brisk pace, tested Cook outside the off-stump and later beat Gary Ballance regularly with balls angling away. The first ten overs produced just 25 runs. Singh’s first spell produced 5-3-5-0.
Shami replaced Singh at the Pavilion End and Cook steered him to third-man for four. The skipper seemed to be playing a waiting game, trying to build a solid platform for the stroke-players to come in and accelerate when the ball was no longer new and bowlers no longer frontline and fresh.
In fact, the acceleration did not take too long in coming. Ballance, having scored just three in 18 balls till then, clipped Kumar to the square leg boundary and drove him down the ground for four more. The first ball of the following over was on driven for four by Cook. Three consecutive balls had gone for boundaries. The running was sharp as well, an eye always on the opportunity of an extra run. The same Shami over saw Ballance executing a superb straight drive for four.
Twenty minutes remained for lunch and the last four overs had produced 28. MS Dhoni turned to Rohit Sharma. Ballance lofted him straight down the ground for six. He was playing a belter in the middle. From the other end, Jadeja was put on and was reverse swept for four. Rohit blasted through the covers. The fifty partnership was up in quick time.
And in the last over before lunch, a ball from Jadeja turned in, beat the bat of Ballance and, if television replays are to be believed, went to short leg off the pads. Umpire Marius Erasmus raised his finger and the thrilling cameo by the Yorkshireman came to an end for 39 in 48 balls. England went into lunch at 80 for two, the impetus already injected in heavy doses into their innings.
One would expect another 120-150 in the second session after the Indian batsmen are asked to bat again. With Joe Root and Jos Buttler in their ranks, there are quite a few options for England to go hammer and tongs at the bowling during the afternoon. The Indian approach to containment will also be interesting to note.
The stage is set for an entertaining session.
(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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