Lawrence Booth: England show more resolve and nous than India at key moments of Test
11:23 GMT, 14 December 2012
These are heady times for England. Already 2-1 up in a series they were widely tipped to lose, they have now taken control of a Test which yesterday looked as if it might descend into a bar-room brawl.
For the third Test in a row, England have shown more resolve and nous at the crucial moments than India. At 139 for 5, and then 242 for 7, their first innings was in the balance – or worse.
But Joe Root added his name to a list of heroes that has grown beyond England’s wildest dreams since Ahmedabad, and Graeme Swann proved he can still construct an innings worthy of his ability.
Playing his part: Graeme Swann chipped in with 56 runs with the bat as well as a wicket
Then Jimmy Anderson, who came alive when he found reverse-swing in Kolkata, took charge, bowling Virender Sehwag and the hapless Sachin Tendulkar, and forcing a loose drive out of Gautam Gambhir, a combative cricketer England take special delight in seeing the back of.
It was high-class stuff from a bowler who was questioned in some quarters during England’s defeat to South Africa in the summer. Then, he was made to look ordinary by the big beasts of South Africa’s top order. Now, a combination of his own skill and India’s pussy-cat willingness to have their tummies tickled, has turned him into a match-winner.
In between, Swann accounted for Cheteshwar Pujara, whose star has waned since the first innings at Mumbai, a time when England did not appear to know how to get him out.
Getting his man: James Anderson took the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar for the ninth time
The shame was that Pujara should not have been sent on his way by Rod Tucker, caught at short leg by Ian Bell off forearm rather than glove.
But the point has been made so many times in this error-ridden series that it barely needs repeating now: India’s distrust of ball-tracking technology has persuaded them to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Every mistake that goes against them merely highlights their stubbornness. When, you wonder, will they learn
Getting it right: Alastair Cook has guided England to the brink of a series win
If England had been unsure where their first-innings 330 stood in the scheme of things, they were reassured by the instant removal of Virender Sehwag, who looked off the pace in losing his middle stump to Anderson.
And yet some fluent drives from Gambhir and Pujara suggested strokeplay was possible. England still had work to do.
What has become clear since their first-innings surrender at Ahmedabad is that they keep finding someone for the job. It is a conviction perhaps borne of adversity: they were rightly rounded upon after the whitewash in the UAE, then needed some sensible batting from Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, plus Kevin Pietersen’s pyrotechnics, to salvage a series draw in Sri Lanka.
After the home defeat to South Africa – their first in four years – they took a young squad to the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka and came badly unstuck. Then there was Ahmedabad, after which Cook made the point to his players that the rot had to stop, and it had to stop in the next game at Mumbai.
England’s response, whether the rest of the world likes it or not, has been one of the cricket stories of the year. What happened today felt like part of the narrative.