Tag Archives: England v India First Test

Step Forward the Agents of Change: England v India Test 100 Day 4

It would have taken a professor of volcanology – and a particularly smart professor of volcanology at that  – to have been able to predict the seismic changes and startling discharges that occurred during the seven hours of play in the fourth day of this match-up between the champion side and a determined contender for their crown.

A good Test requires just such a back story along with the inclusion of a sprinkling of Promethian heroes hammering each other.  A very good Test requires the unexpected. 

For this, there have to be mere mortals whose impudence shakes the very earth on which the Gods play their game.

Yesterday, these agents of change – these catalysts – whose deeds erupt and transform the landscape were Ishant Sharma and Matt Prior.

It was expected that Englandwould extend their lead of nearly 200 on the first innings with, surely, an opener scoring a century, Pietersen providing a cameo as counterpoint to his first innings edifice, and perhaps Morgan displaying, in an hour after tea, those limited-over shots that take the breath.

But no, in the space of 37 minutes between 12.17 and 12.44 Sharma ripped the heart out of the England batting making a mockery of Bell’s brilliance, defying Trotts tenacity and doing to Pietersen what a dozen of the best bowlers in the world have tried unsuccessfully to do – meet his arrogant advance with a throat ball that has him pleading for his life with his gloves raised in supplication and self-preservation.

England went to lunch with their view of the world in tatters, five wickets down, ash and molten debris littering the dressing room floor. 

In contrast the Indian weltanschauung was fully restored and all was bonhomie  and back-slapping.

The second Law of Thermo-Dynamics points to change occurring as much from omission as commission and for some unexplained reason MS Dhoni omitted to press home his advantage after lunch.  It took fully forty minutes for him to recall Sharma to the attack.

In that time Matt Prior had turned counter attack into full scale advance.  England’s number 7 accompanied by Broad, who replaced the summarily dispatched Morgan that gave Sharma his fourth wicket and who began this innings on a King Pair, took the score from 107 for 6 to 269 without further loss and the lead from an earth trembling 295 to the terra firma of 457.

At which stage the game was out of the hands of those born to mothers.

It is expected that, although India will put up a solid defence, their remaining nine wickets will be sufficiently immovable.  It is expected that England will win this opening Test.  It is expected …

And what will happen?  Go ask a volcanologist.

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In Praise of the Duke, in Praise of the Wall, in Praise of the Broad: England v India Test 100 Day 3

The quality of the cricket on view on the third day of this classic Test lived up to expectations.  The best batsmen faced the best bowling and the ball moved sideways.

Sideways, not ‘sideways’.  ‘Sideways’ is a term normally reserved for exaggerated movement in the air or off the pitch.

Yesterday, as indeed on all three days of this match, the movement was not extraordinary, but it was distinctive.  It was the result of skill and it could be countered only by matching that skill with batting technique of the highest order (or in the case of Pietersen with peerless innovation).

There was a passage of play when the Master and the Wall, Tendulka and Dravid, batted together for 81 runs against twenty or so overs from Anderson, Tremlett and Broad, and there can never have been a better contest at this special venue which has staged over a hundred Test matches since the first in 1884.

Dravid triumphed, undefeated on 103.  Tendulka perished.  The former played as late as was humanly possible against a ball moving across him at 85 mph – surely the optimum speed for swing at pace. 

Dravid opened the face of his bat and played the ball square into the off-side with the blade angled backwards, his hands well in advance of the rest of the bat.

Tendulka playing a foot earlier, much straighter and with the blade perpendicular was often beaten and in truth never looked capable of surviving to make that first century at Lord’s which was palpably his prime ambition.

India may have expected to face two such bowlers with Anderson capable of well disguised swing in both directions and Tremlett trading extra bounce for such disguise, but they were to come up against a Broad determined to pitch the supply of last year’s Duke cricket ball being used in this series at a fulsome length.

It was Broad who dismissed Gambhir with a perfectly drawn French curve to trap the left hander, LBW.  It was Broad who, with fortune at his side, tempted the promising Mukund, anxious to reach ‘fifty’ to drag a wide half volley back onto his stumps for 49. 

It was Broad who might have had India five down for 159 had Strauss and Swann been able to cling on to straightforward slip catches from Dravid and Laxman in the same over.  It was Broad who finished his day with 4 for 37 in 22 overs; half as frugal and twice as potent as his companions.

As it was, no other batsman was capable of staying with Dravid, no other capable of playing the moving ball so consistently well.

India were able to save the follow on but are in a parlous position 193 runs in arrears, all second innings wickets standing and with two days of cricket remaining.

The day’s play heightened the value of Pietersen’s innings  and intensified the importance of the third umpire’s decision not to allow Dravid’s catch when the double-centurian turned Kumar to backward short leg.  This decision has made the difference between the two totals.

But the true star of this Test has been ‘the red’ used in this match with its tenacious, proud and hand-stitched seam – the product of two hundred and fifty year’s of artisanship.

It is said that Test cricket is dying, it is also said that Test cricket is prized by those who play it.  If so, then, a cricket ball must be developed that has a seam that withstands the harsher surfaces found in other countries and the players must insist on its adoption – such a development cannot be left to the politicking of the administrators.

It is the seam that creates the turbulence, and the skilful positioning of the seam through the air that creates the differential patterns of air flow that produce the movement which, when exploited by bowlers and countered by batsmen, so enthrals and entertains.

Spinners appreciate it too.

For cricket of the quality on show in this Test match, there must be a balance between bat and ball – bats have developed, so now must cricket balls.

England 474 for 8 dec and 5 for 0, India 286

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Goings on at No 42 : England v India Test 100 Day 2

The packed house at the home of cricket in North London could be forgiven for thinking that they had rocked up to be the audience for a filming of that ever popular chat show, The Kumars at No 42.

With Khan hors de combat, attention fell on a diminutive figure instantly recognizable as Ashwin Kumar, head of the family residing at No.42, where, to indulge the dream of his son, Sanjeev, to be a television presenter, the materially obsessed Ashwin had built a television studio in his back garden.

It only remained for those looking on to learn who would be the star guests made to sit on the Kumar’s sofa, where they would alternatively be flattered by Sanjeev, quizzed on the most private of matters by Ummi, fed by Madhuri and audited by Kumar the Elder.

Praveen Kumar Ashwin Kumar

By the end of the day five bewildered guests had come and gone through the front door of the north London mansion in an immaculate demonstration of old fashioned swing bowling. 

They included Trott, Bell, Morgan and Prior.

Praveen ended with figures for the day of 23 overs, 5 maidens, 5 for 60 and figures for the innings of 40.3 overs, 10 maidens, 5 for 106.

But one guest refused to leave.  Kevin Pietersen, who began the day on 22 withstood the mild questioning of those bowlers playing the part of Sanjeev, Ummi and Madhuri and even the more rigorous pecuniary probing of Kumar himself. 

However, the innings was not without controversy that may settle the result of this Test if not the series itself. 

A catch at backward short leg by Dravid when Pietersen was 49 was rejected by the 3rd umprire.

When Pietersen reached his double century with a half an hour of the day’s extended play remaining the programme editor andEnglandcaptain, Andrew Strauss, declared and directed Anderson and Tremlett to probe the Indian openers.

England 474 for 8 declared, India 17 for 0

However, this was actually another day of gripping Deep Cricket during which two individuals in a sport that sets team against team, undertook personal responsibility for the fortunes of their sides.

Pietersen on the first day showed that, for this match at least, he would utilize his old trigger movement (advocated by Third Man here  last September). 

This pronounced movement takes the great innovator across the stumps in a way that immediately clarifies the corridor of uncertainty, removes the danger of an LBW and gives him license to utilize his strongest shots, attacking across the line to the on-side.

The accounts of this match will be full of tributes to the determination,  discipline and later the portentous assault of the exhausted Indian bowling by Pietersen.

But the Bowler’s Club will pay tribute to the 24 year old sub-80 mph swing bowler Praveen Kumar, who stepped into the breech left by Khan.   If India score 350 for 3 on Saturday at Lord’s, the true calibre of Kumar’s feat will be plain for all to see.

So far each England wicket has achieved an average of all-but 60 runs, which to Third Man’s mind makes Kumar’s five-fer worth 300 runs. 

These two ‘dependables’ played together in the IPL and it was heartening to see the marks of mutual respect they accorded one another at the end of England’s innings. 

Pietersen received the ritual standing ovation, Kumar left the field more discreetly.  Most likely he had guests to welcome back at No 42 and was worried Sanjeev wouldn’t have the wit to do things properly unless he was there to supervise the situation.

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