Penney thrown in at the deep end

Nothing went right for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men on Day Two of the third Test at Eden Gardens yesterday with Alastair Cook’s England finishing the day on 216 for one. Cook, in the middle of a purple patch with the bat, was unbeaten on 136 and had Jonathan Trott (21) for company at the end of day’s play.

The only England batsman dismissed was opener Nick Compton (57), who was trapped leg-before by Pragyan Ojha. ¬†With this century, Cook surpassed illustrious compatriots such as Sir Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey, Geoffrey Boycott and Kevin Pietersen — all of whom have 22 centuries under their belt. Cook, who has amassed 493 runs in the series with an average of 164.33, has now scored a century in each of the five Test matches he has led the English side.

India skipper MS Dhoni celebrates his half century with Pragyan Ojha at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata yesterday. Pic/Ajay Roy

Cook’s unbeaten ton had the hosts reeling after Team India were dismissed for 316 in their first innings. Resuming on the overnight score of 273-7, skipper Dhoni hit his 27th Test 50 but saw wickets fall at the other end regularly.

The fact that India’s fielding coach Trevor Penney attended the media briefing at the end of second day’s play speaks volumes of the plight of the Indians on the field throughout the day. Penney, trying his best to hide his disappointment with his wards, seemed to be on the backfoot for almost every question hurled at him.

Trevor Penney

On being asked whether Cook had made all the difference, Penney agreed. “He’s right up there. He’s at the top of his game and he’s getting the breaks — a dropped catch or an lbw or something in these last three games. And he goes on to get the big ones, that’s his strength,” Penney said.

The fielding coach also shielded Cheteshwar Pujara for dropping Cook when the batsman was on 17. “Pujara has been practising a lot. He’s been one of our better slip fielders over the last month or so. I know he dropped a catch today which was very crucial but that happens in cricket,” Penney said.
However, Penney’s idea to rotate the slip fielders was hard to digest. “We are protecting the slip fielders.

Ashwin doesn’t normally go in so I can’t comment on that. Pujara and Viru have been practising a lot in the slips. We practise with quite a few to be able to field there so it’s not just one or two people,” Penney said.

Even after a disastrous show, the 44-year-old tried to put up a brave front. “Just two weeks ago, we won convincingly. Last week, we had everything in our favour after Day One but let it slip with a very good innings by Kevin Pietersen. In this match maybe we should have got more runs in the first innings but tomorrow is a new day.

“We are still confident, we just need a couple of breakthroughs, Cook’s a key one. The series is still wide open,” the former Warwickshire cricketer said.¬†

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