Spinners are grinners. Out of the 27 wickets that have fallen so far in the second Test between India and England, the tweakers have grabbed 26 wickets with only one going to pacer James Anderson.
Yesterday, 15 wickets fell – five less from the record of most wickets to fall in a day’s play in India. The England spinners sent shockwaves through India’s dressing room door by claiming seven wickets in India’s second dig to end the day in a strong position.
Gautam Gambhir battles away on Day Three of the second Test yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble
At stumps, India were 117 for seven, 31 runs ahead with three wickets remaining. Gautam Gambhir is the lone hope with an unbeaten 53. The southpaw has Harbhajan Singh (1 not out) for company.
It was Monty Panesar again, claiming a 10-wicket haul in a match England will in all probability win on Day Four today. Graeme Swann grabbed 2-39 in India’s second innings.
With India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni wanting the ball to turn from Day One, it seemed that the hosts were caught in their own web.
However, Gambhir refused to look at it that way. “They (England) have quality spinners. But Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook’s partnership took the game away from us. If you take out that partnership, no other batsmen contributed. So, that’s a good enough indication that our spinners bowled pretty well too. We didn’t have good sessions. If we had 70 to 80 runs to play with, we would well have been in the game,” Gambhir said.
Starting the day 149 runs behind, Kevin Pietersen and skipper Alastair Cook, who were unbeaten on 87 and 62 on Day Two, put England in a commanding position with their fluent strokeplay. How come England spinners got wickets, while the Indian spin trio of R Ashwin, Ojha and Harbhajan struggled? Said Gambhir: “I felt England spinners were quicker in the air. There is bite and bounce in the wicket, so some balls will turn and some will keep straight. The difference was the speed at which they bowled. At times, they were quick and some times, slow as well. It is important to know what kind of speed you want to bowl at on this kind of wicket where there is turn and bounce. So, maybe Monty and Graeme bowled with ideal speed that made a huge difference.”
Gambhir knows that only a miracle will help India win this Test. “There are three batsmen still left. You have to be positive. If Bhajji and I get a good partnership, we can get a good score. If we can be 110-7, they can also be in that position. One thing is that we need to put runs on the board. If we can give them 120-150 runs to chase, it will be a good score. When I played my debut Test here, Australia was all out for 70-odd runs (Australia were bowled out for 93 in 2004) “So anything is possible. Even they will struggle to get to that score. We have three quality spinners. Miracles can happen and things can change very quickly. We just need to put some more runs on the board.”