What a roller coaster of a day! England started 193 ahead with all 10 wickets in hand, and were soon down to 62-5, thanks mainly to an amazing spell of hostile bowling by Ishant Sharma. The match came alive, with a complete reversal. Was India going to restrict England to a small second innings total and settle in for an early chase? Lords was buzzing with Indian optimism, probably first time in the game. Just for a while Zaheer Khan's absence did not seem the worry. News of Sachin's viral fever and consequent absence from the field trickled in.
The most amazing thing happened post lunch - Dhoni kept Ishant away from the attack for 35 minutes, using Raina instead. Huh!? Was this master plan to have off-spin at both ends to attack Morgan? Ishant was on a roll, recovered after the 40 minute lunch interval, and clear as daylight to all, he was the "go to man". As soon he was reintroduced into the attack, he delivered Morgan's wicket. This was probably the last bit of joy for the Indians. Matt Prior and Broad went onto build an excellent partnership without further loss. Prior played an absolutely brilliant hand, coming in at 62-5 and taking his team to an overall lead of 458, and notching his third test century at Lords. Broad exhibited some lusty hitting to add to his bowling exploits of the first innings.
India's agony was compounded by a really hard blow Gautam took to his left elbow standing close at forward shortleg. Two of the top four batsmen in trouble now.
In the absence of Gautam, Dravid opened the batting with Mukund, and held strong at one end. Mukund exposed an obvious chink in his armour dragging a ball onto his stumps, second time in the match, this time of the back foot. Laxman came in at number three and alongside Dravid, played his typical reliable second innings role, despite being tested by Tremlett. India finished at a respectable 80-1 at stumps.
England remain well poised, and will play attritional cricket on day five. They will hope that wickets come in clusters, when they get the break throughs. Indian's however will work to cut out errors, build partnerships working with one's and two's each time a wicket falls. Playing out a full day against the English hunting pack, with effectively 6 remaining wickets - discounting Gautam, Sachin, Zaheer and Mukund - will be steeply uphill. But then, they are a champion side, as they showed this morning. So let's not draw conclusions yet!
It will certainly be last game that Sachin, Dravid and Laxman will play at Lords, and that is a big occasion for the memory bank!
Sunday, 24 July 2011
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