Opener Gautam Gambhir’s watchful 60 and Sachin Tendulkar’s cautious 76 steered India to a respectable 273 for seven at close of play on Day One of the third Test against England here yesterday. Skipper MS Dhoni (22) and Zaheer Khan (nought) were at the crease when stumps were drawn.
Tendulkar may not be in the best of form, but there’s no shortage of fan following for him at the Eden Gardens here. The 39-year-old batting maestro received a standing ovation from the 20000-odd crowd as he walked out to bat after Cheteshwar Pujara was bowled for 16 by England spinner Monty Panesar.
Earlier, Virender Sehwag’s unfortunate run-out on the first delivery of the 11th over put India under pressure straightaway on a wicket that seemed to suit England seamer James Anderson perfectly. Anderson, was spot-on and aptly rewarded with three wickets (3-68) for constantly troubling the Indians throughout the day with his reverse swing. Panesar complemented Anderson well with his left-arm spin and finished the day with 2-74. Tendulkar, who had not scored a half century since January 2012, came in at a crucial juncture — when India were 88-2 after 25.4 overs — and the stage was perfectly set for him to score a big knock to take the team to safety. He delivered too, and though his tenacious 76 off 155 balls didn’t quite ensure India got on top of the visitors, it did save MS Dhoni’s men the blushes. Tendulkar’s innings was laced with 13 well-struck fours before he edged an Anderson out-swinger to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
The Indian middle-order failed with both Pujara (16) and Virat Kohli (6) departing in a hurry, while comeback man Yuvraj Singh (32) was dismissed after playing with authority, hitting four boundaries and a six. Ravichandran Ashwin scored a valuable 21 before an Anderson in-swinger knocked his stumps over.
Gambhir admitted India would have been in a much better position had Tendulkar or he gone on to score a ton. “Sachin and me should have continued. The team would have been in a much better position if even one of us would have had got a hundred,” said Gambhir in the post-match press conference.
The left-hander however stressed that individual scores were unimportant as it’s the team position that eventually matters. “It’s not about a 100, it’s about what the team does. It’s about what we collectively put on the board. It will not help if one player gets a 100 and the team ends up scoring between 250 and 260,” added Gambhir.
Finally, though the day seemed to have ended with the visitors having a slight edge, Gambhir disagreed. “It was an even day. One can’t really say that things will go England’s way. If we can put up 330-350 on the board, it will be a good contest,” he said.