England in India 2012-13 December 6, 2012

Full analysis: the Sehwag run-out

What was Gautam Gambhir thinking?

Things You Should Try To Avoid Doing On The First Morning Of A Test Match, Number 1:
When batting with Virender Sehwag, on a pitch clearly to his liking, and when he has begun to clop along at a run a ball, dozily ignore the fundamentals of running between the wickets you should have been taught as a schoolboy, and run him out.

Gautam Gambhir ignored this basic tenet of opening the batting for India, when Sehwag neatly turned a ball towards the midwicket boundary. Patel and Finn hared after it at high speed, Sehwag and Gambhir began running at medium speed. Perhaps the batsmen assumed, not unreasonably, that, given that the ball had come off Virender Sehwag's bat, it would inevitably go for four. Perhaps they were assuming there would be an unending series of overthrows that would require them to run 80 to 100 runs for the shot, so were pacing themselves accordingly - why knacker yourself out on runs 1, 2 and 3 and risk missing out on runs 75 to 80? Who knows. In any case, there was something of a lack of urgency.

With two runs duly trotted, Patel dived and saved the ball from the rope, and Finn picked it up. There was clearly a third run available. It was Sehwag's call. He made that call. Unfortunately for him, at that very moment, Gambhir appeared to be otherwise mentally engaged. He was, as all the worst, unlicensed coaching manuals advise, standing still, with his back to his partner, not even contemplating the possibility of a third run.

ESPNcricinfo's in-house mind-reading and psychoanalysis team, based in an underground bunker in Geneva, Switzerland, have various theories about what Gambhir was thinking about at this moment. The most likely subjects flickering through his brain are considered to be: 1. A solution to the Middle-East crisis; 2. The feasibility of a manned space jaunt to Mars; 3. His future career as a Formula 1 driver; 4. The purpose of existence; 5. Whether he should buy a domestic power drill to put some shelves up, or employ a professional shelfman to do it; and 6. How Aleem Dar's hair always looks so lustrous.

In the left-hander's defence, he has batted with Sehwag on many occasions. Sehwag is renowned for many things. Scampering quick third runs is not especially high on the list of Classic Sehwagian Batting Traits. It is certainly well below, for example, cutting loose on the first morning of a Test match and giving his side immediate control of the game. Which is what he appeared to have allocated as his Plan A yesterday. But Gambhir's inattention was nevertheless instrumental in Sehwag having to resort to Plan B: trudging back to the pavilion and spending the rest of the day checking his emails and wondering why India were not scoring at 4.5 per over.

England were given control of the game, and never relinquished it throughout another gripping day of hard Test cricket. No other batsman was able to score with freedom thereafter. Gambhir himself became less fluent, battled to 60, then played a loose cut at Panesar. Tendulkar played an outstanding innings of patience, restraint, craft and delicate deflections, ended by a similarly excellent piece of bowling by Anderson, who was persistently threatening all day.

Had Sehwag not been needlessly run out, the day could have been very different. It might have been almost the same. He might have been out to the next ball he faced. But he might have been 90 not out at lunch, and had a double-century on the board by tea. So it is with Sehwag, in home Tests at least. He remains India's most important wicket. The scope of possibilities is significantly diminished as soon as he is out. Whether he is out due to good bowling, his own error, or Gautam Gambhir having a mid-morning snooze.

Things You Should Try To Do On The First Morning Of A Test Match, Number 1: Clean-bowl Cheteshwar Pujara.
Monty Panesar did this. It was a sound strategic move, and not an easy one to pull off. In a fascinating duel, Panesar had induced the first signs of uncertain footwork in Pujara so far this series, with his improved variations of pace and flight. Pujara had twice skipped out of his crease and, with a whip of the forearms, sent perfect on-drives scuttling to the boundary rope. Then Panesar deceived the Rajkot Rock with one that went straight on. The crowd was surprised. Pujara was surprised. The stumps themselves were presumably not expecting to be disturbed whilst he was batting. Monty unleashed a dance that is still being studied and interpreted by the world's leading choreographers.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer