The second day’s play on paper gives England a slight advantage, but a fall of a wicket could easily even out the equation. The morning session was the most difficult period of the match. The ball was coming through quick, with a fair bit of bounce and turn. Anderson once again bowled very short and so not very affective.
The problems for India arose when Panesar and Swann bowled in tandem. Both of them were dangerous as they looped and gave the ball that extra spin and revolution. A wonderful arm bowl from Panesar got rid of Ashwin and Swann thereafter demolished the rest. Pujara once again showed his class and technique and was finally out stumped for a well-made 135 out of India’s total of 327 runs. England came out more organised and planned.
Their openers, Cook and Compton played the Indian spinners with thought and maturity. They did not let them settle at all, by placing for singles and smothering the spin when required. Alistair Cook was outstanding. Gooch must have given him some good lessons, as he waited for the short ball to cut, swept like his mentor from outside the off-stump and was not afraid to loft the ball over the fielders to create the gaps for some easy singles thereafter.
India did have a glimpse of hope in getting the better of England when they lost Compton and Trott. Their tails were up and this was the only phase where the bowlers and fielders looked sharp.
Pietersen came out next to play a gem of an innings. He seemed to have charted out a plan in the dressing room as to how he will face the Indian spinners. He used his long reach to hit few glorious drives and also came out and lofted the ball to unsettle their length. This was all surpassed by the way he rocked on his back-foot to play some piercing drives through the cover and point area to get some easy boundaries. His was a lesson in batsmanship. The Indian fielding looked tardy and tired. The close catchers never looked in a position to take the low edges. The sweep shot created mental and physical agony for Pujara and Rahane. Both did not have the technique and experience to evade or counter it.
Dhoni’s captaincy was aggressive and positive and his field placement was to get wickets. Unfortunately, apart from Harbhajan Singh, who bowled with a loop and revolutions like the England spinners, both Ashwin and Ohja were flat and fast. They did at times extract some turn, but did not have the top- spin to get a bounce. One felt that Dhoni should have given a few overs to Yuvraj, especially to Pietersen and to Sehwag who bowls a little slower and at times can turn the bowl quite menacingly.
England still have a long way to go, they will need a substantial lead to bother India. The wicket is gradually becoming a dust bowl as the grass is drying. Batting last will still be quite a challenge.
> Former India player Yajurvindra Singh figured in the 1976-77 and 1979 Test series against England