If Sachin really is on the way out, he's not going in style… and that's thanks to brilliant bogey man Anderson
12:49 GMT, 5 December 2012
India v England: Third Test
Anderson and Panesar turn the screw on India as only Sachin knock stands between England and paradise at Eden Gardens
This was little short of heroic from England. Condemned to bowl first for the third Test in a row, they overcame a loose start to take charge of a day that had at one stage seemed destined to belong to Sachin Tendulkar.
From 45 without loss off 10 overs, India spent the remaining 80 putting together 273 for 7 – testimony both to the meandering nature of a batting line-up that lacked a firm hand on the tiller once Cheteshwar Pujara had jumped ship, and to the discipline of England’s bowlers.
Monty Panesar and Jimmy Anderson in particular were immense. The extent to which Panesar outbowled Graeme Swann at Mumbai wasn’t reflected by respective match hauls of 11 wickets and eight, but there was little doubt which of his two spinners Alastair Cook felt more inclined to turn to before lunch when he craved control.
Bunny: James Anderson dismissed Sachin Tendulkar for 76 at Eden Gardens
Helped by Tendulkar’s admirable refusal to commit the same errors which had twice cost him against Panesar in Mumbai, England’s left-arm spinner settled into a groove from which he was only budged when Yuvraj Singh hit him for a straight six in the second over after tea.
It was mesmerising stuff, as his two victims would presumably testify: Pujara was undone by one that, deliberately or otherwise, went on with the arm, while Gautam Gambhir cut to slip, where Jonathan Trott was grateful to take one in the guts.
Anderson showed off all his skills. He was unfortunate not to dismiss Gambhir in his opening spell, and underlined his versatility by returning for the 45th over for a stint with the oldish ball.
Virat Kohli was undone by one that left him slightly – India’s batting prodigy has been a desperate let-down in this series – but the wicket that sent Anderson halfway round Eden Gardens was that of Tendulkar, who prodded at the first ball after the post-tea drinks and was well held by a tumbling Matt Prior.
Charmed life: Tendulkar was not convincing despite hitting a half-century
With that wicket Anderson joined Muttiah Muralitharan in a two-man club: only they have dismissed Tendulkar eight times in Tests.
But the context of the game mattered more. At a venue where India had passed 600 in each of their three previous first innings, they were now 230 for 6. (Had Steven Finn not fumbled a glaring chance to run out Ravichandran Ashwin from mid-on in the same over, India would have been 231 for 7.)
For Tendulkar, it was a painful moment. Throughout much of a gripping day, he appeared fated to prove his supporters correct and play the three-figure innings that would silence – temporarily, at least – those who feel he is living on borrowed time.
It was rarely pretty, save for a trio of paddle-sweeps off Swann and one laceration through the covers off Panesar. Mainly, he scored behind the wicket, steering the ball with varying degrees of conviction past the slips. If he really is on his way out, he is not going beautifully.
And yet there was plenty to admire, too. While less gnarled team-mates contrived to surrender their wickets – none more grievously than Yuvraj Singh, who poked a near long hop from Swann to short extra cover – Tendulkar delved deep into his reserves of bloody-mindedness.
No one would have begrudged him a first Test century since January 2011, but England were not in the mood for charity. And that pretty well summed up their day.
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