The pre lunch session was another India session, thanks to two late wickets by Anil Kumble. Team India looked a bit ragged in the field though in this session. A dropped catch, some wayward bowling and a slow over rate did not help India’s cause. It was a session in which India only bowled 25 overs!
Given the match situation, it was somewhat surprising that India’s over rate was as poor as it was. There seemed to be a sluggishness and languidness to the play when what may have been required was urgency and fervour. It was also surprising that Kumble got to bowl only 5 overs in this session. I am not sure why he wasn’t given more of a bowl!
But perhaps Dravid was having things in reserve. He swapped the bowlers around in short-sharp spells. Given the hot and humid conditions and against the backdrop of the knowledge that India may need to stay on the field for a long-long time to squeeze out a victory, it is likely that short-sharp spells was the plan.
The dropped catch did not help either. Again it was Karthik that dropped a simple catch at leg slip. Dravid had placed Karthik strategically at leg slip to snatch Alistair Cook’s uppish leg glance. The shot was played off Sree Santh and Karthik fluffed it. It was a somewhat shoddy display indeed. Following tight on the heels of a thorough and professional display on days 1 and 2 of this Test match, this was a somewhat sorry showing from India.
Nevertheless, this was a session that belonged to India. England scored 100 runs but lost the wickets of Anderson, Cook and Vaughan. This session was India’s and the session-by-session score reads 6-0 in favour of India!
Sree Santh, who was somewhat listless before lunch, bowled with fire after lunch. He had Pietersen in some trouble in one over — an over that incidentally contained 3 no balls and also contained a few out swingers, a few in swingers, a wide delivery, a bouncer, a slower ball and much much more! The young man wanted to exhaust his entire repertoire in the one over!
The post-lunch session was a rebuilding session for India and one would be forgiven for having visions of it being the first session that belonged exclusively to England. That was until the penultimate over before tea. Off Sachin Tendulkar’s first ball in the match, Pietersen had a brain explosion that resulted in him launching into an expansive drive the moment he saw the ball above his eye sockets. The premeditated launch defied the match-context and the result was almost predictable! That was a big wicket although I still think that that session belonged to England, its first in the match.
The pre lunch session did, however, contain yet another Howell gem! Off the second ball Collingwood faced, he was plumb in front to a beauty from Kumble. I received an immediate SMS from a friend that read, “If that ball won’t have hit the stumps, call me a banana“! As if to make up for that bad call — a really silly goof up at this level — Howell waved Collingwood away to the pavillion when the batsman appeared well set for a gritty century! He was declared out LBW to a ball that was sliding way down leg side! Howell should know that righting a wrong does not cut it at this level! He, like Matt Prior the England ‘keeper, has had a forgettable match!
Bell played positively but the bells were tolling for England and he too went to a good ball from Sree Santh. The second new ball had removed Collingwood and Bell and as with the other 4 innings of this series, the rest of the batsmen — sorry, we do have to call them something! — offered no resistance at all.
One could be forgiven for starting to wonder why Matt Prior is in the England team! Certainly it can’t be for his ‘keeping! On the evidence of this series, it can’t be for his batting? His puerile yapping then?
Dravid had handled his field and his bowlers well. He bowled them in short spells and rotated them around. He did not overbowl Kumble. He even gave Laxman a bowl!
The session-by-session score card reads 7-1. This too has become somewhat futile and almost irrelevant in this Test match! The only question that needs to be asked is whether or not India press the follow-on. India are 338 ahead. Under normal circumstances I’d have said no. I’d have thought India should bat for at least a session and a half, make a really quick 160 or so and then get England to bat 5 sessions to either make the 500 runs or implode. This would ensure that the bowlers get a bit of a break and come back fresh. This would also ensure that India had the last opportunity to use the wicket.
However, two things ride against this decision. There is a threat of rain in the air. Moreover, this is the last match of the series and the bowlers’ workload may not be that much of a large issue. The pitch is also not that much of a threat. So India may need all the time that she can get on this pitch. With this in mind, imposing the follow-on may be the way to go. Either way, we have a few good sessions of cricket left in this game.