Monday, 19 November 2012

India Vs England: Ahmedabad Day Four

Sheer bloody-minded defiance has taken this Test into the fifth day, and England have much to thank Captain Alastair Cook and chief Lieutenant Matt Prior for.

As they did yesterday, England made it through the final session of the day without losing a wicket, proving that once you get in batting is not as hard as their top order made it appear in the first innings. Of course, you do still have to get in. 

Nick Compton was the first to go, adding just three to his overnight score. He has shown enough strength of character in this match to keep his place for the series one would think, barring serious aberration, but he was uncertain this morning and never looked like repeating his efforts of last night. The middle order mustered just 41 runs between them. Jonathan Trott looked capable for a while before Pragyan Ojha got one to take the shoulder of his bat, while Kevin Pietersen mustered just two before being bowled around his legs. He has bowled more deliveries in this match than he has faced. 

Ian Bell did what he could to make up his his hideous shot in the first innings, hitting a delightful cover drive to the boundary off his second ball - keeping it along hte ground this time. But a classy 22 does not win, or even save Test matches and a man playing his 82nd Test was expected to produce more. He departs India after this Test to attend the birth if his child, but it remains to be seen if he can win his place back. 

For the second time in the match England lost their fourth and fifth wicket in consecutive deliveries, as Umesh Yadav pinned Samit Patel first ball. As in the first innings Patel will feel aggrieved, this time as the Umpire failed to spot an inside edge. His place in the side is also under threat - a man not good enough to be in the team as a specialist batsman or bowler is always going to be surrounded by questions marks. He should have a place in the limited over game, but Tests are an arena for specialists. Eoin Morgan might just get a game yet. 

Cook and Prior have kept England alive in this match and they, plus Graeme Swann, are the only men who can feel remotely pleased with their efforts so far. For Cook it a third hundred in his third Test as captain after his two in Bangladesh as a stand-in for Andrew Strauss. An achievement that has never been done before. If yesterday evening he was positively attacking, scoring 74 in the one session, he reverted to type today, scoring just 96 in three sessions. In Prior he had the perfect foil, providing the support that nobody was able to give him during his first innings 48. 

There was a host of quick singles to rotate the strike, an achievement in itself given the stifling heat, and bad balls were put away. The BCCI continue to refuse the use of the DRS system, which helped Cook last night and Prior today when on 61, both from the bowling of Ojha. These two will need to continue their efforts tomorrow for England to save the match. Batting two sessions is a must and stretching the lead to somewhere close to 150 should be enough. 

The partnership is reminiscent of another great escape when captain and wicketkeeper batted heroically to save a Test away from home, that was 1995 and the players involved with Michael Atherton and Jack Russell. If they can repeat that feat, and silence the noisy Indian supporters, then this will rank right up there with the great escapes.

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