Fightback worth the wait - Trott
England began to worry they might take no wickets at all on day three in Nagpur today - before four came along in the last hour to make it “neck and neck” again in the final Test.
Alastair Cook’s tourists drew a blank while Virat Kohli and India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni relentlessly compiled a fifth-wicket stand of 198.
Once the former went lbw to Graeme Swann for 103, though, England seized their chance to redress the balance and Dhoni’s run-out for 99 saw day three end with honours close to even.
Only the implications of a series score already 2-1 to England means the state of play - India 297 for eight in reply to 330 all out - favours Cook and Co, who need only a draw here to stay in front and wrap up the four-match contest.
They retained that consolation throughout a taxing day. But as Jonathan Trott confirmed, during the 84 overs it took to part Kohli and Dhoni, England did at times wonder if the breakthrough would ever come.
Asked whether that thought entered their minds, Trott said: “Of course. They were playing really well ... but then Graeme bowled a great ball to Virat Kohli, and it can change the day like that.”
Trott, among the frontline batsmen England will be hoping can keep India at bay in return, congratulated Kohli and Dhoni on their efforts - and his own team on theirs.
“They played unbelievably well for five hours, and credit to them for that,” he said. “But we stuck to our guns, kept the pressure on them and eventually we got a breakthrough and were able to push on.
“You’ve just got to trust yourself and your team-mates that when you get the chance you’re able to take it - which happened. Five hours without a wicket, then four wickets in an hour - that’s what can happen, a fantastic advertisement for the game.”
Trott is taking nothing for granted, but senses Cook’s direct-hit run-out of Dhoni might yet tilt the series England’s way once and for all.
It was reminiscent of the moment Andrew Flintoff ran out Ricky Ponting as the 2009 Ashes were clinched at The Oval - a fact not lost on Trott, on debut then and a mainstay of England success since.
“It changes things massively, obviously,” he said. “It’s a credit to the guys for sticking it out for five hours, not getting a wicket, and then coming back into the game and evening it out.
“It’s pretty neck and neck. It’s thanks to the bowlers - and then to get a chance like Alastair did, and to be able to take it, is a game-changer and maybe a series-changer.”
Trott also references Ian Bell’s direct-hit run-out to kickstart India’s collapse at Eden Gardens last week in England’s seven-wicket win there.
Of Dhoni’s dismissal, trying to scamper his 100th run, he said: “It was tight, but he is very quick between the wickets. So that makes that bit of fielding by Alastair even better, especially having to go to his left and hit the stumps with his momentum going the other way.
“It’s a bit like Fred’s run-out in 2009, maybe the catalyst for changing the game. We got a run-out like that in Kolkata as well, so we hope it can help to maybe win us this game.”
England do not need to do that, of course, to complete a historic series victory - and they could have had no better demonstration of what is required to make the match safe than the one provided by Kohli and Dhoni, who joined forces yesterday on a perilous 71 for four.
“We saw how they batted today, for two sessions, and didn’t lose a wicket,” said Trott. “Their basics were really good, methodic, and their gameplan worked out. It’s a case of us being able to go out there and do that as well.”
The key for England’s batsmen will be to get in, and then stay patient.
“It can be quite tricky to get started,” he continued. “It’s not as if it’s completely flat, and you can come in and be guaranteed runs.
“Nothing is guaranteed. We’re going to have to apply ourselves, but the example of the ‘Dhoni and Kohli Show’ is that it is certainly very battable out there.”