MUMBAI – England pulled back to 1-1 in a four-Test series when they breezed to a ten-wicket victory on the fourth morning of the Mumbai Test. It was a victory which will have roused England’s self-belief in Asia and which brought into question India’s entire strategy for the series of relying on sharply-turning tracks, leaving them with much to ponder ahead of the third Test in Kolkata next week.
India’s slow bowlers had been outperformed by their England counterparts, with Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann finishing with 19 wickets in the match in favourable conditions they rarely experience. Panesar’s match return was 11 for 210, Swann 8 for 113, but the Test had turned on an attacking century from Kevin Pietersen that will live long in the memory.
England, ridiculed after their heavy loss in Ahmedabad, have now inflicted two of India’s last four Test defeats at home. They also won at the Wankhede Stadium six years ago and, after two India defeats against South Africa in Ahmedabad and Nagpur, England have now triumphed again.
England will anticipate a more traditional slow turner when they move on to Kolkata with MS Dhoni, who has been outspoken about setting a spin trap for beleaguered batsmen, sure to come under criticism. But for all the impressive nature of their victory, especially after losing the toss on the first morning, England have not yet come to terms with spin – Pietersen and Alastair Cook have. It will be an intriguing week.
England’s target was an eminently manageable one. They needed 57 after India, 117 for 7 overnight, added a further 25. Like all small targets, it was best chased positively. Cook slashed his first boundary, against R Ashwin, through the slips; Nick Compton came down the pitch, a rare sight, to drive Pragyan Ojha determinedly through the off side. It all took only 9.4 overs.
The mood had been set first ball when Dhoni allowed a low take against Ashwin to rumble through his legs for four byes; the match was won with another four byes down the leg side with India’s captain again failing to lay a glove on the ball. Dhoni is a redoubtable one-day cricketer, there are few better, but in this Test series to date his keeping and batting has had its shortcomings.
India’s lead at the start of the fourth day was 31 with three wickets left on a ferociously turning pitch. Gautam Gambhir, who had batted through the rubble on the previous evening, advanced his unbeaten 53 to 65 but he was last out when Swann had him lbw. Gambhir, who had made minimal attempt to protect India’s tail by farming the strike, walked off shaking his head that umpire Tony Hill had missed an inside edge.
It was the second umpiring mistake of the morning, Aleem Dar also having missed a catch at short leg. Such is the lot of cricketers when administrators reject technology and the ball turns sharply with fielders clustered around the bat.
England were on the brink of victory and yet their position felt far from unassailable, not with recent history in mind. When Harbhajan struck Panesar’s first ball back over mid-off for four and Gambhir added a more considered boundary behind square, India had ten off the first over. Six more overs like that and their lead would be approaching 100 and that was considerably more than England managed when they lost to Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in January.
It felt more secure for England in the next over when Harbhajan, a dangerous smiter, fell to Swann’s fourth ball, a leaping, turning delivery which he leant back to chop, inviting Jonathan Trott to dive to his left at slip and take a catch at comfortable height. Zaheer Khan was dismissed two overs later, a brief show of patience followed by a heave against the spin and a sixth wicket for Panesar as the ball sailed straight upwards and Prior took the catch.
England’s cause was not helped when Dar erred yet again, missing a relatively straightforward bat-pad from Ojha, on 4, jubilantly held by Swann at backward square leg. Panesar delivered his Harry Potter Look of Wonder as Dar turned down the appeal. Talk of mistakes balancing out – which over the two Tests they probably have – hardly began to justify a stubborn faith in inferior, old-fashioned ways
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.