England v India, 2nd npower Test, Trent Bridge, 3rd day July 31, 2011

India's crown slipping

Another injured bowler was just one of MS Dhoni's problems as he watched the second Test slip away

It was the day India feared could arrive from the moment Zaheer Khan limped out of the Lord's Test after three hours. Through a mixture of hard work, talent, patience, perseverance and helpful conditions, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth did everything they could to keep the contest alive, but it was a bridge too far. As the Trent Bridge wicket calmed down on a sunny day, and Harbhajan Singh went off injured, England took control.

The pain inflicted was so harsh that at the end of the day the visitors walked back to the dressing room like prisoners trudging to their cells with their ankles shackled. The sessions became increasingly worse for India as the day wore on: 106, 124, and then a crushing 187 runs were scored in each of the blocks making it a huge 417 runs in the day. The ease with which the unbeaten pair of Matt Prior and Tim Bresnan tucked into the India bowlers exposed an exhausted attack that had tried everything and could only accept the superiority of England's batsmen.

Ian Bell might be remembered more for his silly walk-out on the stroke of tea, but he played an unforgettable innings. It was in the first session that he took the game away. Ruthlessness has been a characteristic of the greatest sides in the history of the game, be it with ball or bat, and so far in this series it has been England who have displayed more of it.

After their shocking collapse the previous evening, India needed to take a few quick wickets to stop England from building an advantage. They removed Andrew Strauss but that was it. Harbhajan pulled a stomach muscle early on and, after nine ineffective overs, wasn't available for most of the day. For the second time in two Tests, India were down a frontline bowler.

Even though the pitch wasn't taking any turn, and Harbhajan has been struggling in this series, he was needed to do a holding role ahead of the crucial second new ball. Instead, MS Dhoni was forced to resort to the part-time spin pair of Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, who leaked easy runs.

It was a day when India's heavy workload in recent weeks - there was a three-Test series in the West Indies, in which all bar Sreesanth from this frontline attack played before coming here - started to catch up with them. This is the fifth Test that Praveen and Ishant are playing in six weeks; Praveen has bowled 221.3 overs while Ishant has delivered 223.5 in that period. Test cricket builds character and while both men have shown they can learn, their bodies can only handle so much. They are also missing their leader in Zaheer.

"For Ishant and Praveen, this is their fifth continuous Test back-to-back; they've been doing a lot of bowling for us," Rahul Dravid said. "They bowled over 60 overs at Lord's, 40 overs here again in three days. It's been hard, it's been tough on these guys and England bat deep.

"They've got some very good batsmen who can capitalise when your bowlers are tired. We wanted breakthroughs with the new ball and that happened. We got three wickets quickly but then the bowlers got tired, they'd bowled so many overs. England batted well and cashed in, so that was always going to put us under pressure once the bowlers got through that initial spell."

India are still the world's No. 1 Test side according to the ICC rankings but unless they dig deep into their reserves over the next two days, they are unlikely to be there much longer.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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