Cook and Compton dig in to show England's spirit after first innings collapse
11:32 GMT, 17 November 2012
At tea-time today we awaited a dog’s dinner. Instead we got a curate’s egg. As Alastair Cook and Nick Compton calmly began the follow-on with an unbroken stand of 111, the sheer incompetence of England’s first-innings 191 felt all the more bizarre.
Execrable in the morning, they were excellent in the evening. It will probably be too late to save this game, for England still trail by 219. But the way Cook and Compton knuckled down at least prevented this first Test from turning into the kind of one-way traffic that can rob a series of its tension.
Yet while England were slipping to 97 for 7 before lunch today in reply to India’s 521 for 8, that was precisely the scenario feared by everyone bar the most hard-core Indian fans and the usual cluster of England-haters. It wasn’t a game of cricket so much as a bloodsport.
Composed: Alastair Cook made a half century in England's second innings
We are unable to carry live pictures from the First Test in Ahmedabad due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations. The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies. MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.
And despite the calm that descended late in the day, there will be undoubtedly be more of it to come. That, at least, seemed to be the only sensible conclusion.
Kevin Pietersen did his best to disrupt the Indian spinners’ lengths by using his feet, but his approach felt haphazard. And with the men round the bat going nowhere in a hurry, it never seemed likely to shift them into the outfield, which would have opened up the gaps Pietersen craved.
Most disconcertingly of all was the curtain-rail shot that brought about his demise, reminiscent as it was of the worst of his travails against left-arm spin two years ago. Still, at least his dismissal silenced those who saw his return as a guarantee of English success. Cricket always has been a team game.
Making his mark: Nick Compton looked more comfortable in the second innings
Ian Bell had what can only be described as a complete shocker. England were gently mocked by the Haryana off-spinner Jayant Yadav for leaving their crease a little too indiscriminately during the four-day practice match. It betrayed uncertainty, he felt. Unerringly, Bell proved his point by lifting his first ball straight to deepish mid-off.
It may have been the most witless moment of his career. Since he is missing the Mumbai Test to attend the birth of his child, the second innings here has suddenly assumed crucial proportions.
Matt Prior, as industrious a player of spin in this team, showed what was possible between lunch and tea, only to be forced into a big shot by a lack of partners. And the adhesiveness of the lower order put their top-order colleagues to shame.
With two days to go, England are still hot favourites to lose this game. But they must build on the platform set by Cook and Compton. Their earlier ineptitude has left them with no choice.