England fight back on thrilling day
India’s beleaguered bowlers produced a fine collective performance in the second npower Test at Trent Bridge but England fought back after tea to give themselves a strong foothold in the clash following a thrilling day’s play.
In the absence of the talismanic left-armer Zaheer Khan, India’s seam attack thrived on a pitch that was offering plenty of assistance under overcast skies as the hosts limped to 124 for eight after losing the toss this morning.
However, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann took the attack to the tourists after tea, with the former hitting nine fours before he was last man out for 64 as England reached 221.
Their cause was further helped when James Anderson had Abhinav Mukund caught by Kevin Pietersen at gully off the first ball of India’s reply.
Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman then endured a nervy 15 overs to guide their side to 24 for one at the close.
That gave Andrew Strauss’ men some much-needed cheer but it should not take away from the efforts of Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar and Sreesanth - who replaced Zaheer - as they finished with three wickets apiece.
Aside from the captain and Ian Bell, both of whom were culpable of giving away their wickets cheaply after being well-set, the batting line-up was undone by superb bowling.
Strauss had earlier announced Tim Bresnan would replace injured paceman Chris Tremlett in the only alteration to the England side that triumphed in the first Test.
India made one other change to their line-up, with Yuvraj Singh replacing Gautam Gambhir after the left-handed opener was ruled out with an elbow problem.
The tourists showed no signs of missing Zaheer in the early stages and Praveen had an appeal for leg before against Alastair Cook turned down in the fifth over.
A new-look Ishant, minus his flowing locks, sent the England opener on his way in the next set of six for just two – albeit via a controversial lbw decision.
Cook was struck just above the knee roll from a straight delivery and the left-hander would have felt aggrieved to be given out after replays showed the ball would just be missing the top of off stump.
It was not until the ninth over that England first found the boundary, with Strauss clipping a full ball from Praveen past square-leg for four.
Jonathan Trott got off the mark with a cut behind point for four, and Strauss flicked Sreesanth’s first delivery for another boundary in the 11th over.
The India paceman would have his revenge three balls later though as Trott, looking to drive a swinging delivery through mid-off, was pouched by Laxman at second slip.
Kevin Pietersen looked assured in the early stages of his innings, highlighted by two successive pulls for four off Sreesanth, who was then driven through mid-off by Strauss for another.
Pietersen, who scored an unbeaten double hundred at Lord’s, brought up his third four of the morning after stroking Praveen through midwicket but India’s bowlers continued to cause problems for both batsmen thereafter.
Strauss relieved the pressure with a crisp backward cut for four off Harbhajan Singh in the penultimate over before lunch.
Yet after digging themselves out of a hole, England were up against it once more when Pietersen fended an outswinging delivery from Sreesanth to Suresh Raina at third slip in the first over after the interval.
The wicket fell immediately after Strauss and Pietersen had brought up a dogged 50 partnership, to which the latter had contributed 29.
England’s run-rate predictably slowed to under two-and-a-half an over as they sought to steady the ship and although Bell broke the shackles to cut Sreesanth through point for four, Strauss was dismissed for 32 soon after.
The left-hander had not scored in the 12 balls prior to his dismissal and he slashed a wide Praveen delivery to Raina at third slip.
England’s predicament then worsened when first, Eoin Morgan was trapped in front at the crease three deliveries later, while Prior was soon on his way, having made just one when he edged Sreesanth to Dravid at first slip.
Bell struck two fours to keep the score ticking over – one that fortuitously went over the slips – and he received a reprieve when he was dropped on 22 by a diving Dravid off Praveen.
Bresnan brought the 100 up for England after clipping Ishant off his hips but, yet again, the bowler was to have the last laugh with two wickets before the interval.
Bresnan was the first to go when he could only fend an angled-in delivery from the Indian paceman to Dravid, once more at first slip, before Bell went in the over before tea after feathering a wide ball to wicketkeeper Dhoni.
Swann wasted no time in settling into his stride with two Pietersen-esque pulls for four off Ishant.
Broad got in on the act in the next over with a lusty blow over midwicket for four, whilst a tickle to fine-leg off Sreesanth produced the same result to bring up the 150 for England.
The duo continued at pace to make a mockery of the top order’s struggles and brought up their 50 partnership off just 42 balls.
India re-shuffled their bowling attack to stem the tide of runs but Broad was not fazed and cracked three fours in as many overs off Harbhajan, Praveen and Ishant.
The boundaries had started to dry up by the time Praveen ended the resistance when a fierce lifting delivery caught the glove of Swann to give Abhinav an easy catch in the slips.
It was later revealed that the off-spinner had a precautionary X-ray on his left hand but no significant damage was reported and he is expected to bowl tomorrow after a reassessment in the morning.
Broad brought up his half-century with a straight drive off an out-of-sorts Harbhajan, but, just after he had struck the spinner for another boundary, he fell after being caught on the midwicket boundary by Sachin Tendulkar.
Anderson, who averages a shade over 15 with the ball in four matches here, sent the crowd into raptures when Abhinav drove loosely to gully at the start of India’s reply.
The Lancashire seamer thought Dravid had inside edged to Prior in the ninth over but the original decision of not out was upheld following a review.
Dravid and Laxman defended stoutly until the close of play, although the former edged an inswinger from Broad just short of wicketkeeper Matt Prior.