White century and two Indian wickets put England in strong position in Ahmedabad
Resuming from their overnight position of 277 for 6, England made steady if unspectacular progress toward the very satisfactory total of 407 all out on the second day of the second Test against India at Ahmedabad. It was a memorable day for Craig White who recorded his maiden century at this level, and with two Indian wickets in the bag before the close of play, England certainly enjoyed the better of an interesting day's play.
Bearing in mind the abysmal collapse in the first Test at Mohali, England could not have been sure of reaching 300 at the start of play. However, despite the continued excellence of Anil Kumble, the seventh wicket partnership of White and James Foster went on to set up the chance of going through the 400 barrier.
Harbhajan Singh was not far behind Kumble in terms of quality, even if he was a street behind in wicket-taking. Not that he enjoyed any luck. Early in the day he drew White down the pitch, beat him in the air, only to see the ball bounce and hit Deep Dasgupta high on the arm rather than nestling in his gloves to effect the stumping that the bowler deserved.
Not content with that, White hoisted Harbhajan over long-on for a six that brought up his own fifty and the fifty partnership with Foster. Foster was playing his part in the stand and when Sourav Ganguly took the new ball, the young wicket-keeper picked up a two and four off Javagal Srinath to bring up the England 300.
White continued to lead a charmed life. He played a ball from Srinath down onto his stumps, but the bails remained in place. He offered a simple chance off the same bowler that the wicket-keeper only needed to grasp to complete the dismissal. He dropped it and White, on 63 at the time, survived.
White smote the next ball for four, before hooking Srinath towards Kumble at deep backward square leg. Kumble did not quite get to the ball and in dropping the chance damaged himself to the extent that he needed treatment off the field. The booing he suffered from the crowd was hardly justified.
Having brought up the hundred partnership, it looked as if the pair could go through to lunch. That was when Kumble induced Foster to play in the air to his favourite mid-wicket region where Sachin Tendulkar dived to his left to hold a spectacular catch. Foster was obviously annoyed with himself for falling ten short of his fifty, but he had played a staunch role by doing more than simply survive for 119 balls.
Giles fell soon after lunch when the admirable Kumble got a googly past his defensive prod, leaving White with just Richard Dawson and Matthew Hoggard to accompany him if he was to go to three figures. He began by protecting Dawson, but gained in confidence in his partner as Dawson gained in confidence himself and went through the nineties in singles.
His maiden Test century could not be described as chanceless but, however many he might go on to score, this will surely be one of his most valuable. Batting at seven with an average of just over 17 after 23 Tests spread over seven years, he justified the faith Ray Illingworth had shown in him when he first selected him for the national side.
Srinath got his reward for earlier misfortune when Dawson eventually offered a sharp chance to Dasgupta after facing 61 balls in a ninth wicket partnership worth 31 good runs, before White was last out.
Deciding to go after Harbhajan Singh when he came back into the attack, he thumped him off one knee over mid-wicket for six having advanced down the pitch. He then did the same but missed and was bowled for 121. His innings had lasted for 265 balls and included 12 fours and two sixes. Kumble finished with 7 for 115 from 51 quality overs.
These had been five ultimately frustrating sessions in the field for India, but their openers set about the task with a purpose and no sign of tiredness. Flintoff was wayward in his first spell, staying down leg side while striving for the pace that he achieved. Hoggard was steady as usual, but it was Giles who made the breakthrough.
Mark Ramprakash had put down a reflex chance at silly point off the bowling of Dawson when Shiv Sunder Das got a leading edge trying to turn the ball to leg. Dasgupta swept and cut Dawson out of the attack, but Giles was in much steadier mode.
With a century under his belt at Mohali, Dasgupta went to sweep a ball from the left-arm spinner pitching in the rough and top edged a catch to Nasser Hussain fielding on the forty-five for that very eventuality.
Flintoff returned to the attack bowling with less pace but more control and somehow persuaded Das to chase a ball very nearly a foot outside the off stump. Das, on 42 and six overs from the close, should have left it but edged to Mark Butcher who gobbled up the chance at second slip.
Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid prevented any further mishap before the close of play, leaving India with plenty to do but undeniably the personnel to do it.