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July 21, 2007
Since a slow start on the opening day - particularly by India's bowlers - this Test has become the first match of the summer to string two, albeit shortened, days of quality cricket together. It's no coincidence the bowlers have ruled; the best matches are often those where they have to work hard for their success. And it was a battle throughout the 47 overs possible.
After losing Sourav Ganguly early, India's innings fell away against the swing of Anderson and Sidebottom. But the ball continued to move around for India's opening bowlers and, following a loose start, Zaheer sparked new life into their challenge. Strauss and Cook had begun to build another solid opening until Zaheer found the breakthrough when he pitched a touch fuller and a still somewhat out-of-sorts Strauss edged to first slip.
Zaheer was making the ball move late and soon trapped Cook lbw with one that nipped back at the left-hander. As throughout the match it was proper swing bowling that was doing the damage. Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen were given a working over by Zaheer and RP Singh, the latter cranking his speed up to 88mph (140kph), and there was more playing-and-missing on view than bat on ball. After another delay England were left with a tricky 35 minutes, which Vaughan and Pietersen weathered against a dangerous Zaheer.
With wickets continuing to tumble, England's earlier effort in gaining a sizeable lead grew more significant. As with India when they began bowling on Friday, England were on the mark straight away as Vaughan opted for the swing of Anderson and bounce of Chris Tremlett. Ganguly was set up beautifully by Anderson, who continued where he left off on the second evening with a probing line and length. A series of deliveries swinging across Ganguly's body was followed by a pearling inswinger that went between bat and pad as Ganguly failed to get forward. It completed a full set of the big three batsmen for Anderson, who has taken on the senior role in a junior attack.
Anderson was at the centre of most things during the morning. He switched to the Pavilion End and troubled VVS Laxman with late swing before targeting Dhoni with short deliveries. Dhoni almost guided one straight to second slip and, the next delivery, succeeded in finding third slip with a shot more akin to the catching routines a team goes through before play. It presented Anderson with his 50th Test wicket - four years after he made his debut against Zimbabwe at Lord's - in what has been a stop-start career.
Sidebottom then took over and made life tough for Laxman and the lower order with his late movement. Anil Kumble squirted a couple of boundaries but England were always sensing another breakthrough and Sidebottom duly trapped Kumble on the crease. He then guaranteed England a healthy advantage when Laxman nibbled outside off stump at one that angled across him as Sidebottom showed all his variation.
It was fitting that Anderson wrapped up the innings - having Zaheer taken at first slip off a gloved hook - and it completed his third five-wicket haul in Tests. His career has been hit by injury and loss of form but time in county cricket has allowed him to develop his skills and, along with Sidebottom and Tremlett, has put more pressure on England's absent big guns. Now the batsmen need to give them enough runs for a repeat performance in the second innings, but the way this match has developed don't rule out a few more twists and turns.
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