Mumbai: On the eve of the second Test between India and England, former cricketer Sunil Gavaskar warned that while he feels home captains should have a say in the nature of the track, that it can always backfire. The recoil of the turner at Wankhede was such that it took just four days for an outcome but it was against MS Dhoni and his team.
Dhoni had suggested after winning the first Test at Ahmedabad that Indian pitches should have a lot of turn. The ball spun a great deal through the course of the subsequent Test but it was his batsmen who failed to negotiate what Dhoni thought the English would falter at. A day by day look at what went wrong for the hosts in the contest.
After an emphatic win in Ahmedabad, all bets were on India to continue with their ominous form, both with the bat and with the ball. Instead, it became a story of a battle of one-upmanship between Cheteshwar Pujara and Monty Panesar.
Playing his first match of the series, Panesar tasted blood early when he dismissed Virender Sehwag (30) - playing his 100th Test. From here on, it was a riveting contest between his skill with the ball and Pujara's application with the bat.
One man holding his own is never enough. Fortunately for India though, despite a flurry of wickets at the other end, Pujara kept his composure long enough to last till he found support from No. 8 batsman R Ashwin. In fact apart from the two, the Indian batsmen kept edging or using their legs when they should have been using their bat.
The ball was turning for sure but Indian batsmen have always been renowned as cricketers who face spinners with a confident face. What eventually unfolded was a repair-job from 119/5 to 266/6 at stumps.
Report card highlights:
Application and the need to adapt to turn which perhaps was a bit more than expected, was largely missing from India's batting arsenal.
Pujara had a century against his name from a day earlier. Ashwin had a fifty. It showed that while conditions were a bit tough, runs could be put on the scorecard. The hosts eventually folded on 327 - a score many considered would be enough but forgetting, quite at the same time that if Pujara and Ashwin could put on 117 for the seventh wicket, the visitors too could do something on the same lines. The visitors in fact improved on it!
Pragyan Ojha claimed Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott relatively early but it began emerging strangely that the bowling was rather pale as the day progressed.
Cook and Pietersen combined and while the track was still friendly towards the slower bowlers, managed to negate all efforts made against them.
India had services of three full-time spinners but none managed to extract vicious turn from the pitch. In fact, it was also observed that none of the three - Ojha, R Ashwin and Harbhajan - were making the batsman come forward. Variations began drying up and with it, both Cook and Pietersen were flicking the ball rather easily and getting the score to hum along. Yuvraj was the only part-timer to have been given a chance to roll his arms over but even he could not do much in his three.
England ended the day on a high, and on 178/2.
Report card highlights:
Bowl on the pads but bowl on the middle and off too. Mix it up and force batsmen to respond to the queries. Basic tenants of spin bowling was missing from seasoned Indian spin campaigners.
The two England batsmen were strolling along a day earlier. On Sunday, they began marching.
The march would finally come to a brief halt in the 87th over when Ashwin picked his first and got Cook's edge. By then however, the skipper had scored 122, leaving behind an equally forceful partner.
Pietersen kept the score ticking and had Samit Patel and Matt Prior for company. Once he departed though, the Indian spinners finally showed some of their famed fangs to scuttle out the tail. The worst was to come though.
If India's first innings left room for some improvement, the second innings peeled that room and made it into a banquet hall. In a few hours, the batting scorecard began resembling a telephone number written vertically with veterans collapsing like all of them were on debut against the best bowlers ever known to cricket.
True, Panesar and Swann mixed it up and asked questions which could well further their global repute. The Indians however also gave themselves up by their timid approach and the day ended with a shoddy lead of 31 and just three wickets to spare.
Report card highlights:
On tour to England, Indian batsmen learnt, again, that bounce can hurt. On Day 3 of the Mumbai Test, Indian batsmen discovered that spin can grievously wound too. Flat, lifeless pitches are the best.
Gautam Gambhir (51) came out to bat with Harbhajan Singh (1) with little chance of delaying England's win. Bhajji started with a lofted shot that went for a boundary. India's hope rose like mercury and dipped likewise 10 deliveries later when Swanna had him caught at slip by Jonathan Trott for 6 runs.
Zaheer Khan was the next man to come out. He surely can bat but he didn't look resolute and paid the price. Panesar dismissed him for just 1 run.
Gambhir, who ran out of partners, had just Pragyan Ojha to accompany him. He added 11 runs with him for the 10th wicket and perished as the last man. Swann trapped him LBW as India were all out for 142 runs. The target for England was just 57 runs.
Nick Compton and Alastair Cook came out to chase down the total. And even though Indian spinners Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin didn't appear lethal, the England pair showed how to tackle the tweakers and eventually dominate them.
Report Card Highlights:
Time to change the attitude that comes from this statement - if top order can't score, why expect the tailenders. It's time tailenders started taking responsibility and at least put up some fight. Never underestimate your opposition.