November 28, 2001

Iqbal Siddiqui destroys England in Jaipur

A spectacular batting collapse, triggered in main by Iqbal Siddiqui (4/36), pushed England to 170 all out in their first innings. India 'A' thus took a valuable first-innings lead of 63 runs on the second day of the three-day match against India `A' at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur on Wednesday. By the close of play, India 'A' had moved to 75 for the loss of three wickets.

After restricting India `A' to 233/9 declared on the first day, England must have hoped to get some valuable batting practice ahead of the first Test at Mohali. On a lively pitch, Marcus Trescothick and Mark Butcher had negotiated the India `A' bowlers for 11 good overs to reach 37 for no loss at stumps on Tuesday.

But their good work suddenly seemed a distant memory on the second morning, which read more like a chapter from a gruesome horror story. With the 11th ball of the day, Siddiqui struck, claiming Mark Butcher's wicket. Butcher (37) could only add five more to his overnight score before gifting a catch to Abhijit Kale in the slips.

Trescothick (7) followed soon after, given out caught behind off the first ball of the next over by Dodda Ganesh. The batsman was distinctly unhappy with the decision and stood his ground for some time before making the long slow walk back to the pavilion.

Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussain then put together a scratchy partnership of 36 runs for the third wicket. Vaughan, who must by now be desperate to get some runs under his belt, was lucky to be dropped by Gautam Gambhir off the bowling of Ganesh. Hussain too enjoyed some luck this morning, being dropped by Rashmi Ranjan Parida off Siddiqui. Vaughan struck five boundaries in his 22 before top-edging a pull off Siddiqui, only to give Vinayak Mane an easy catch in the covers.

Mark Ramprakash and Andrew Flintoff both failed to open their account, gifting their wicket to Siddiqui. The medium-pacer from Maharashtra was soon rewarded by the national selectors, who picked him for the first Test squad. Craig White and Ashley Giles came and went, scoring two runs each. Hussain's own defiant knock of 40 off 88 balls finally came to an end when he went for a wild heave off the bowling of his counterpart Sunil Joshi. The English skipper hit five boundaries and a six to topscore in the innings.

A clueless Richard Johnson (5) let through a ball from Joshi (3/39) only to find his stumps disturbed. England were in serious trouble at that stage - 128/9. The last-wicket partnership of James Foster (32) and Richard Dawson (19), however, added 42 valuable runs for the last wicket. Dawson was finally trapped in front by Reetinder Singh Sodhi (2/12) to mark the end of the English first innings. It was a remarkably lacklustre performance with the bat by the English players, especially considering that the first Test starts on Monday.

In their second essay, India 'A' batsmen struggled to get the ball away for runs. The pitch was playing up badly, the ball keeping low and creating all sorts of problems for the batsmen. A ball that stayed low and shot through to hit the pads undid Mane, who must have been keen on impressing the national selectors; he was given out lbw. Gambhir played valiantly to make 30 before being bowled by Craig White, who was putting together a good spell. White tasted more success when he trapped Gagan Khoda in front to claim all three wickets that fell in the evening (9-3-21-3).

The match is very keenly poised now, with India 'A' leading by 138 runs. Brilliant bowling by the Indian bowlers has blown a big hole in the English confidence. The tourists will be looking forward to an improved performance on the last day of the three-day match tomorrow.