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.