Ahmedabad: Moments of the Day 4 of the first Test between India and England.
No sweat, no yet gain
Alastair Cook has this tremendous ability, as told by England's commentators and those who know him, to not sweat even in most testing of conditions. Of the 362.2 overs bowled in the match till now, captain Cook was not there on the ground only for 34.4 of them. Of the rest, he has batted, fielded and marshalled his troops efficiently, especially in the second innings. Nearing the end of Day 4 though, he just had a drink but never changed his gloves or dropped a single drop of 'saline body fluid'. Accepted, Ahmedabad might not be that 'hot' as of now but still it is remarkable endurance.
He thus has become the first skipper in the history of the game to cross hundred thrice in the first three Tests as captain. And he has also given England some hope here going into the last day of the Test match. Compared to the time it looked that the match might get over in three days, this is some recovery.
Performing despite not getting the 'Prior'ity
He might have been undermined or 'ignored' in comparison to some of the stalwarts like Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott but Matt Prior has once again proven to be a thorn in opposition's flesh when his team is under the pump. It was his innings on Day 3 that lend some respectability to England's first innings total and along with it also gave them courage and hope that the pitch was not as demonic as they might have perceived it to be initially. It worked wonders, with England off to a brilliant start in the second knock.
Later, Prior was again sent in after Samit Patel in the second innings but justified why he still is England's go-to man under pressure. He followed up his 48 in the first with a 84 and still going strong in the second. Now, it's India looking for cover.
It proved costly after all
Umpires have not had a particularly great Test match by any stretch of imagination and time and again DRS has been the talk of the town of all and sundry. YouTube videos in workplace too were abuzz with "Aleem Dar wrong decision against India. That incident was way back in 2007 in Belfast. Even yesterday, Aleem Dar was in the spotlight when Alastair Cook was trapped right in front by Ojha in the 24th over. He was batting on 41 then. Rest they say, is history.
Semblance of a fightback
India did not have to wait too much for the first breakthrough of Day 4 with Zaheer Khan in top form to start with. Off the last ball of the seventh over of the day and 45th of England's second innings, Zak trapped Nick Compton in front. There was a close lbw appeal against Cook and a missed stumping of Compton by Dhoni just before that. Pragyan Ojha then provided the back-to-back wickets soon after with a beauty getting Jonathan Trott caught by Dhoni and KP getting himself out round the legs while sweeping.
At this time, it seemed that India would run riot and dismiss England before close of play. The notion was then strengthened by Umesh Yadav who bowled a fine spell just as Ian Bell and Alastair Cook's partnership was taking dangerous proportions. The Vidarbha quickie got Ian Bell and Samit Patel (who was unlucky yet again) off consecutive deliveries to give England the jitters. This was the 77th over of England's second innings. India was on top!
All too familiar for India
Time and again, Team India has shown this tendency of slacking and giving away the advantage just when they are right on top. Off the hand a few Test matches that come to mind are - 1st Test vs Pakistan in 2005 where Pakistan were 3/10 in second innings and recovered to 496, series was drawn 1-1.
3rd test against South Africa in 2006-07, India led by 41 runs in after first innings and due to some indifferent and negative batting in the second, lost out the match and the chance to win a series in South Africa. India lost that series 1-2.
Again against Pakistan at Karachi in 2006, despite riding high on Irfan Pathan's hat-trick, India slacked and let Pakistan score 245 after being 39/6 in the first innings. Mohammad Asif and Abdul Razzaq were then too hot for them to handle in the fourth innings. India lost that series 0-1.
Cut to 2010-11, the Ashes. England were bowled out cheaply in their first innings of the first Test. They then recovered back in the second with a massive 517/1 to draw that Test. They won the series 3-1. Any bells ringing now?