England v India, 1st Test, Lord's July 20, 2007

'Ganguly inspired me' - Sreesanth



That's another one. Sreesanth stages a remarkable comeback after the storm © Getty Images

At Brisbane four years ago, in what was also a series opener, on another soggy second day, Australia went from a commanding 262 for 2 to a modest 323 for 9, all in a span of 16 overs. Today, after about three hours' delay when rain soaked the ground, England came apart, losing 6 for 30 in 11.2 overs to a bowling line-up that had sleepwalked through most of yesterday.

If the drainage system at Lord's was efficient, India's bowlers were doubly so. They began the day with the old ball, hit the straps early, took the new ball, dislodged the nightwatchman, induced two edges from the most dangerous opposition batsman, and swung out the tail. Six of England's last seven batsmen totalled two runs between them. It wasn't Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis unleashing reverse-swing, just a set of medium-fast bowlers applying some common sense. All breakfast and lunch that was consumed today must be preserved in the new board office at Mumbai.

Delays cause lethargy, especially when you're watching the incessant pitter-patter. India began snappily without dawdling around and waiting for things to happen. Wickets weren't followed by stunned celebrations but a far more expected routine. India weren't surprised they were getting wickets but glad they'd managed to hit their stride. It was this belief that carried them through and the lack if it that undid the batsmen.

Mid-way through the third over of the day, Rahul Dravid decided to take the new ball. Two balls later, RP Singh provided the breakthrough. Dravid could have easily been tempted to giving RP Singh a few more overs; he resisted and brought back his main men.

Zaheer Khan outfoxed Pietersen in his very first over. When Simon Taufel reversed the decision, he didn't overtly show his frustration but walked back purposefully, ready to strike again. Sreesanth summed up the mood at that moment: "If he got him once we were sure he was going to get him twice. If you can get somebody out once, I'm sure he can be out again." It took just two balls for him to find the snick again.

Sreesanth conceded ten in his first over, seeming to fall back to wayward habits, but was soon pitching it up and pumping his fists. No unnecessary short balls, no extra aggression, just full and straight. Three for 11 in four overs, hands outstretched and hair flopping. Zaheer mopped it up: short of a length, outside off, inside edge onto the stumps. Two for seven in 4.2 overs, buoyant strides and big smiles.

The relaxed start to the day seems to have had a salubrious effect. "I listened to a lot of music," said Sreesanth, "was just relaxing and the moment the umpires said the game is on from 1:50 I said, 'Ok cool'. We [himself and Zaheer] were lucky RP [Singh] was bowling a few overs, we had some more time. He got the first wicket and I said, 'Ok, he's hitting the right areas. I'd decided to do the same in the morning. Venky [Prasad] really helped us. When there was a delay in the start he told me not to lose the focus and come back hard."

It was a stark contrast to yesterday's opening spell, one where nerves got the better of him. "I started bowling like Sreesanth only when I bowled the seventh over, the first of my second spell," he said triumphantly in third person. "I was standing at fine leg yesterday and I saw Sourav Ganguly bowling. It really inspired me - he was just hitting the right areas. He got Cook out, the first wicket and showed us the way. I'm thankful to him to be honest."

The bowlers will be doubly thankful to Ganguly if he can stay out there and build a few partnerships tomorrow. At Brisbane four years ago he walked in when India were 127 for 3; today he came in at 106 for 3. His sublime 144 set up an classic series back then; a repeat here could take this Test down a similar route.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo