Not exactly Rule Britannia at Mohali
The Indians are in sight of a victory at the end of the third day's play in the opening test match at Mohali. The hosts have a garnered a huge lead, and already there is enough encouragement for the spinners. The turn and bounce extracted by Richard Dawson towards the later stages of the Indian innings would have thrilled the Indian dressing room. Though Dawson went for more than a hundred runs, he was quite impressive, and personally he can look forward to a very enjoyable series.
The Indians are tough nuts to crack at home, and the way in which they methodically went about their innings was appreciable. There was some talk of acceleration on the second day, but it was evident that the hosts were bent on batting only once in this Test. Dasgupta once again showed immense patience and determination to notch up his maiden hundred.
England had a very good chance of putting the hosts under pressure after they were well-placed at lunch on the first day. Marcus Trescothick and Nasser Hussain had put up a very emphatic second-wicket partnership, with the Indian seamers providing many scoring opportunities. Tinu Yohannan looked better than his new-ball partner, Iqbal Siddiqui, who was bowling at a very gentle pace. Sanjay Bangar did not get his bearings right and was too full in his only spell. It was also unfortunate that he had to leave the field on his very first day of international cricket.
With the spinners also going for runs in their opening spells, the situation was ideal for the visiting batsmen to put up a huge score on the board. But an error of judgement from Trescothick paved the way for the Indians to get back into the game. The English middle-order batsmen were all at sea against Harbhajan Singh even on a firm pitch, and one wonders about their plight on turners. Any side is dismissed on the first day is in trouble, unless it makes amends on the field. Shiv Sunder Das' early dismissal may have spurred the visitors on, but the defiance of Deep Dasgupta and Rahul Dravid put paid to Hussain's hopes.
The Indians are tough nuts to crack at home, and the way in which they methodically went about their innings was appreciable. There was some talk of acceleration on the second day, but it was evident that the hosts were bent on batting only once in this Test. Dasgupta once again showed immense patience and determination to notch up his maiden hundred. He will have to open the innings in the remaining matches of the series, as there are hardly any volunteers to take on the responsibility.
Dravid played in sedate fashion, and it was left to Sacin Tendulkar as usual to up the tempo of the innings. He made the required adjustments on a pitch where the ball was not coming on, playing some glorious shots all round the wicket. Both Dravid and Tendulkar missed out on an opportunity to get a century, but their contribution ensured a big lead for the hosts. Sourav Ganguly looked under the weather, and it was by no means an innings that he would be pleased about. There was a lot of indecisiveness in his shot selection and also in his footwork. It was very obvious that he is short of confidence, at least when it comes to Test cricket.
England have only themselves to blame, as they made things very difficult for themselves by dropping fairly simple chances. The bowlers did a commendable job given the circumstances, and the lack of support was disconcerting for them. Andrew Flintoff let his frustration get the better of him by exchanging words with the Indian captain, but umpire Steve Bucknor controlled the situation extremely well. The well-built all-rounder bowled his heart out without any success, showing how cricket can be so cruel sometimes.
The writing is now on the wall for the visitors and, going by the way that they batted in the first essay, nothing short of a miracle can save them from defeat. Things can only get harder for England as they are likely to play on turning tracks in both Ahmedabad and Bangalore. They may well rue the opportunity they missed at Mohali. Ganguly will settle for a win in this series, although they are not exactly playing the best of sides from the British Isles.