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July 29, 2007
The much vaunted Indian batting line-up came to the party for the second day in a row, helping them take complete control of the second Test after the third day at Trent Bridge. Boosted by half-centuries from five of their top six, they amassed 481, a first-innings lead of 283. England had a potentially uncomfortable 16 overs to face in the evening, but Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook began encouragingly, knocking off 43 runs with few alarms.
The Indian innings was the perfect illustration of every top-order batsman making a contribution. Rahul Dravid's 37 was the lowest score among the specialist batsmen, while four of the first five partnerships added more than 65. With the Indian score already reading 254 for 3 when the day began, and England's best chance of reining in the lead was early wickets with the second new ball, which was taken in the second over of the day. Their first success, though, came only in the first over of the second session, and even that was thanks to a shocker from Simon Taufel. Tendulkar, keen to get his eye in at the start of a new session, padded up to a Paul Collingwood delivery that had pitched outside off and was clearly going through straight. Taufel, though, ruled in favour of the bowler, sending an aghast Tendulkar back to the hutch for his seventh Test score in the nineties.
England clearly had the worse of the umpiring errors on the second day but they got another one in their favour when Ganguly, who had motored along to 75, was given out caught down the leg side off Anderson when replays suggested no contact between bat and ball.
Before those verdicts, though, both batsmen had done their bit. Ganguly was clearly the more fluent of the two throughout the morning session. The new ball was swinging appreciably but Ganguly was seldom bothered. When defending, the feet moved close to the pitch of the ball, the head was over the ball and the bat close to the body. When attacking, he was decisive and fluent, stroking the ball effortlessly and almost always finding the gaps. He started off with a superb back-foot punch off Chris Tremlett, then hooked him for a six over square leg. When Michael Vaughan turned to Monty Panesar, Ganguly celebrated with two picture-perfect cover-drives.
Tendulkar, on the other hand, survived a torrid spell from Ryan Sidebottom, who was easily England's best bowler but had the one wicket to show for his efforts. Swinging it into the right-hander and then angling it away from the perfect line, he repeatedly beat Tendulkar's outside edge in a nine-over spell that cost seven runs. Tendulkar faced 48 of those deliveries and wasn't too comfortable throughout. Ganguly's confidence slowly rubbed off on him, though, and a lofted cover-drive off Panesar suggested he was getting his rhythm back before Taufel ended his chances of a 38th Test hundred.
Those two wickets and the early dismissal of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who finally obliged the luckless Sidebottom with an edge, eased England's misery in the field but India weren't quite done yet. VVS Laxman, battling to keep his place in the team, managed a half-century and a couple of typically wristy strokes - including a stunning, flicked straight-drive off James Anderson - without ever regaining the fluency of old.
To their credit, England never lost the plot throughout the 159 overs they spent in the field, conceding just 227 in nearly 80 overs today. Sidebottom and Tremlett kept a tight check on the runs before Panesar finally got a couple of lbw decisions from Ian Howell to clean up the tail. India still ended up with a lead of 283, which is their third-highest outside the subcontinent, after the 373 against West Indies in St Lucia last year, and 355 at Headingley in 2002.
The rash of wickets gave India 16 overs to attack England's batsmen but they handled that tricky period with few alarms. They were handed an unexpected freebie from a completely out-of-sorts Sreesanth, who lost his rhythm and his run-up and sent down two shockingly listless overs with the new ball before being pulled out of the attack. Zaheer Khan got a couple past the outside edge but, for the most part, both Strauss and Cook handled everything thrown at them with a measure of comfort. The pitch was showing signs of uneven bounce, though, and while Kumble didn't threaten much in the three overs he bowled, he'll surely be a huge factor on the fourth day.
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