Trott takes tourists towards triumph
Jonathan Trott led the way as England looked to bat themselves to a first series victory in India for almost 28 years in the crucial fourth Test at Nagpur.
A painfully slow surface at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium has not produced the kind of positive cricket one would hope for in a tense finale, yet England still had plenty of work to do when play resumed this morning.
Following India’s oustanding fightback yesterday - led by skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli - the penultimate day of a rubber that has brought the best out of the tourists was always likely to prove crucial.
Alastair Cook’s men were up for the grind, moving to the brink of a famous series success with a responsible batting performance that sums up just how far they have come since their struggles against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year.
Few could have predicted, with the weight of history against the tourists, that they would be in a position to seal this series heading into the final day, especially following a crushing nine-wicket loss in the opening Test.
Yet, led outstandingly by Cook, England could well emulate David Gower’s side of 1984/85 after closing on 161 for three - with a lead of 165 - following India’s eventual declaration at 326 for nine declared.
After the hosts had wasted a valuable hour adding 29 runs to their overnight 297 for the loss of Pragyan Ojha, Cook and Nick Compton responded with a 48-run stand that built crucial momentum.
Both eventually departed to poor umpiring decisions, Cook falling victim to Kumar Dharmasena wrongly raising the finger for the second time in the match and in the process seeing his record of scoring a century in every Test as skipper - which stands at five - come to an end.
Ravichandran Ashwin was the fortunate bowler, earning a caught-behind verdict when Cook comfortably missed the ball. Compton, having at times looked fluent en route to an impressive 34, was then given leg before off Ojha despite an inside edge, though justice was seemingly done with the ball being caught anyway.
When Kevin Pietersen fell cheaply - bowled by Ravindra Jadeja shouldering arms - just after tea, England seemed to be in a dangerous position at 92 for three - only for Trott and Ian Bell to then show character indicative of the tourists’ overall performance.
On a pitch where it has proved a struggle to progress at two an over, they managed to score relatively freely in an unbroken 67-run stand spanning 23.1 overs that left India - surely seeing their chance of avoiding a first home series loss since 2004 slip away - noticeably frustrated.
That was best illustrated by both Dhoni and Kohli, heroes yesterday, chipping away at the umpire having appealed vociferously for caught-behind against Trott when the ball missed bat.
Kohli and Ishant Sharma also had words with the England number three, who - having blown a kiss in the direction of the latter - coolly responded by reaching his half-century soon after, following up a wonderful straight-driven four with a single to point.
By the close, he had taken his score on to 66, an innings featuring many beautifully timed trademark whips through midwicket, while Bell - having struggled for runs in the series - had 24, with two lovely back-foot punches through cover among the highlights of the day.
The duo walked off at stumps with a sense of purpose, knowing the job was not finished - yet maybe taking solace in knowing the ground work had been done impressively.
11am - STUMPS - England 161/3; Trott 66, Bell 24 - Bell plays out the last over, bowled by Ojha, and England end with a lead of 165 heading into the final day. An excellent partnership between Trott and Bell has left Alastair Cook's men in an excellent position to seal a quite sensational 2-1 series success. Join me tomorrow to see if they can!
10:52am - Amid frustrations boiling over from India, these two have kept their cool and been outstanding. Trott moves to 64 with another lovely whip through midwicket.
10:32am - After the fifty partnership is brought up, Trott is fortunate to survive a leg-before appeal off Ashwin. To be fair to umpire Dharmasena, it looked like the batsman had inside edged first - though replays showed it was pad then bat. I am not sure India can complain too much given what happened earlier in the innings.
10:15am - Few players make cricket shots look better than Bell. Ishant is just a little short and sees his delivery met by a back-foot punch that pierces a gap on the off side.
10:01am - FIFTY! Trott (106b 8x4 0x6) - Lovely shot again from Trott, who - having had to listen to a bizarre verbal onslaught from Virat Kohli following the aforementioned appeal - drives Ishant fluently for four before cutting a single that heralds an excellent half-century. Time for a drink.
9:52am - Big appeal from Mahendra Singh Dhoni after the ball flew past Trott’s attempted cut off Ishant. The wicketkeeper was not happy, but no edge is showing up on replays. Good decision from umpire Kumar Dharmasena.
9:42am - Trott is really looking in good touch here; after cutting Ojha powerfully for four, he guides the left-arm spinner through fine-leg for another - albeit with the help of some poor Sachin Tendulkar fielding. And the boundary rush continues as Bell guides Ishant Sharma off the back foot through cover; excellent response to Pietersen’s dismissal thus far.
9:34am - Brilliant shot from Trott, taking a slow delivery from outside off stump and whipping through midwicket for four. Bell then replicates that exact stroke, and gets the same results.
9:25am - WICKET! Pietersen b Jadeja 6; Eng 94/3 - Huge wicket for India! Twice in this match Jadeja has earned a wicket via a batsman leaving a straight ball; Trott did it first time round and now Pietersen, whose misjudgement leads to off stump being uprooted. Real pressure on Trott and Ian Bell.
9:23am - Oh, almost a wicket there. After Ojha sends down the encounter’s 100th - yes 100th! - maiden, Pietersen edges an attempted cut off Ravindra Jadeja to first slip. The ball immediately went down and hit Virender Sehwag’s boots, where it almost stayed. Fortunately for Pietersen, it eventually dropped to the ground.
9:09am - Good work from Cheteshwar Pujara at short-leg as he almost runs out Pietersen at the non-striker’s end. The ball narrowly missed the stumps, though England’s number four may well have been just back in anyway. Jonathan Trott then plays probably the best shot of the day thus far, driving Ojha convincingly down the ground for four.
9:01am - Nick Compton, by the way, was out regardless of the inside-edge as the ball was then caught. The decision stays as leg before, though. Kevin Pietersen blocks out the end of Pragyan Ojha's over, which he had completed four deliveries of prior to tea.
8:39am - TEA - WICKET! Compton lbw Ojha 34; Eng 81/2 - It's fair to say England are not enjoying the rub of the green here. Compton, who was looking in fine fettle, is given out leg before having inside-edged Ojha's delivery. And that dismissal heralds tea.
8:24am - Another boundary for Trott in the same area, this time a more orthodox one. Jadeja drops marginally short and England’s number three rocks back and clips effortlessly off his back foot through leg. A Trott special that.
8:12am - Magical moment in Nagpur. The ball slips out of Ravindra Jadeja’s hand, bounces several times and Trott moves on to the outfield and smashes the ball, which was rolling on the ground, through square-leg for four. Sensational.
8:09am - Terrible fielding from Virender Sehwag, who falls over the ball when there may have been a possible run-out opportunity. Trott then cuts Ishant for a comfortable three.
7:54am - A positive start from Jonathan Trott, who sweeps Ashwin fine for a boundary first ball. Four byes are then added to the score as Piyush Chawla sprays one down the leg side. Cook’s dismissal, by the way, means his run of scoring centuries in every Test as skipper – a record that stands at five – is over.
7:41am - WICKET! Cook c Dhoni b Ashwin; Eng 48-1 - Well, I am not sure Kumar Dharmasena will be on Cook's Christmas card list. For the second time in the match, England's skipper has to walk off following a poor decision from the umpire; he is given out caught behind having missed Ashwin's delivery by some distance.
7:37am - A moment of good fortune for Compton as he chops an attempted cut on to his foot and sees the ball fly narrowly past off stump. There’s a little turn in evidence now, though it is slow and still not as sharp as you would expect from a fourth-day pitch in India.
7:19am - And suddenly a couple of things are starting to happen; Ojha sends down a flighted delivery that hits the foot marks, turns sharply and beats everything – including Cook’s drive – to go for four byes. The opener responds by crunching Ashwin to the cover boundary next over. He now has nine from 79 deliveries.
7:14am - Big appeal for leg before as Pragyan Ojha hits Compton on the pad, but it’s rightly given not out as there was an inside edge. In the following over, Ashwin sees a similarly impassioned shout rejected as the ball was heading down leg. India exerting a little pressure.
6:53am - Stat time (it's safe to assume little is happening in Nagpur). The run-rate in this match is the lowest of Tests played in the last 10 years to contain at least 500 runs. That's a sign of how difficult this pitch is to score on. Compton and Alastair Cook playing things perfectly.
6:43am - Nick Compton begins the session with two via a clip to leg in an otherwise uneventful Ravichandran Ashwin over.
6:01am - LUNCH – England 17/0; Cook 1, Compton 14 - England are happy to just defend and clip away the odd poor delivery, a formula that has worked in seeing them through to the interval – on the stroke of which we saw a rare four - I kid you not - when Compton edged Ravichandran Ashwin through third man. Time for a break.
5:40am - Ravindra Jadeja stops what looks like the day’s first boundary as Compton clips Ishant off his pads through midwicket for three. England’s openers have looked untroubled thus far.
5:19am - Solid start for England as Cook sees out a maiden from Ishant Sharma before Compton clips three off his pads in Pragyan Ojha’s first over.
5:11am - Having watched India take 62 crucial minutes to score 29 runs, Nick Compton and Alastair Cook are now in the middle.
5:04am - END OF INNINGS - India 326/9 dec - Remember my earlier musing? Well, India have decided to declare, conceding a four-run deficit. It's difficult to see what they have achieved this morning. Over to Alastair Cook and Nick Compton now.
4:51am - WICKET! Ojha b Panesar 3; Ind 317/9 - Another 20 minutes taken out of the game. There have been some singles, and from what I can remember, a lone two. Oh, and now a wicket as well. Panesar bowls Ojha via an inside edge; the ball seemed to take an age to hit the stumps after bat. Not the usual celebration you would see from Monty, whose 50 overs have yielded just 73 runs.
4:31am - Here is a thought: if the run-rate does not pick up substantially, will India declare? Their only hope of winning this game is to bowl England out relatively quickly and leave enough time to chase a total. The latter will not be easy given both sides have struggled to score at more than two an over on this slow – and I mean slow! – surface. Over 30 minutes have already been lost this morning.
4:27am - Immediately after the message, Ashwin trots down the pitch and hits over the top, not finding his timing and immediately taking the single. England, meanwhile, are setting the field back, seemingly content for India to score one to two runs an over.
4:18am - Anderson, bowling round the wicket, sends down a grubber that misses Ashwin’s bat and off stump. That over followed the same path as the previous one before a drink – and maybe a message – was sent on for the batsmen. I imagine it was along the lines of: ‘Get on with things’.
4:14am - Monty Panesar comes in, Ashwin defends four deliveries, takes a single from the fifth ball and Ojha blocks the last. England will take another 30 overs of this. Poor situational cricket from India, who should be trying to take as many runs as they can, and quickly.
4:10am - Ravichandran Ashwin was impressive in the last Test with the bat, and is now not taking singles that would expose Ojha. Not sure that makes much sense on this surface; India are the only side that need a win here and England, 2-1 up in the series, will be happy to watch time being taken out of the game.
4:02am - Pragyan Ojha plays out the final five deliveries of Swann's 31st over, which he started yesterday evening with the wicket of Piyush Chawla. James Anderson in at the other end.
3:58am - Therefore, the aim for England will be to claim the final two wickets and then bat for as long as possible on a surface that remains extremely slow.
3:46am - An excellent late fightback from England yesterday following Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni's long partnership left the contest in the balance. The hosts will resume 33 in arrears on 297 for eight when play gets under way in 15 minutes.
3:30am - Hello and welcome to ecb.co.uk's live coverage of the crucial fourth and final Test between India and England in Nagpur.