Winning it with swing
Fortunes haven't swung too much in this Test, with India dominating all but one session, but the ball has done just that right through. India's bowlers have undoubtedly generated more aerial movement and have out-swung England's swing bowlers. At Trent Bridge Zaheer Khan, RP Singh and Sreesanth managed it in English conditions; here they were greeted with environs far more subcontinental. On both occasions, the Indian bowlers were clearly superior, and Rahul Dravid and Paul Collingwood applauded their effort after the third day of The Oval Test.
"The control they've shown is excellent," Collingwood, who made a fighting 62 today, said. He still managed a smile, though that might have been because of Sunderland's 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur on the opening day of the Premiership season. "They've swung it both ways, pitching it in the right areas. They're brought up on Indian wickets and you do have to have the variety for the flat pitches. They showed here they had the skill. The pitch has played pretty well. Let's give credit to the bowlers. The pitch wasn't as fast as we were hoping but it's hard to get people out on it."
Collingwood's point is a valid one. For all the flak that Indian pitches get, they do help the bowlers develop a knack of getting wickets. Dravid didn't think it could be termed a 'subcontinental' wicket but agreed that there were similarities. "In the subcontinent you get various kinds of wickets," he said. "There's still a bit of bounce [at The Oval]. You don't get that kind of bounce in the subcontinent. Anil [Kumble] got a couple of wickets with bounce. It was as dry probably, a bit slow. It's a good wicket, though. We took eight wickets for 300 in a day. As a captain it's tough to stop the runs on this ground."
The new ball changed the complexion of the game completely, with England slipping from 288 for 5 to 326 for 9. Halfway through the day Michael Holding made a pertinent observation: "Rarely have I seen the ball swing so much on the third day at The Oval and never have I seen bowlers waste it like this." India's bowlers, though, turned in a much better performance in the latter part of the day.
"The ball swung till about 40-50 overs," Dravid said, "and we struggled to swing it just before the new ball. The ball got a bit softer, there was not that much bounce. The boys were saying it wasn't going off the wicket as much as the hard ball was. But the new ball made the difference."
Dravid refused to reveal his plans for tomorrow - "I'd like to keep my cards close to my chest" - and Collingwood too wasn't sure of what to expect. "We have to show some fight irrespective. If we have to bowl we'll need to try to get a few wickets."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo.