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The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
December 5, 2012
India 273 for 7 (Tendulkar 76, Gambhir 60) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
The feverish speculation over the nature of the Eden Gardens track finally came to an end as 83-year-old curator Prabhir Mukherjee unveiled a seemingly benign surface, the sort India's batsmen have feasted on at home in recent years. MS Dhoni may not have got the square turner he wanted, but for the third Test in a row he won an important toss, and chose to bat, aware that India had amassed 600-plus scores in the first innings in each of their three previous Kolkata Tests.
Though Sachin Tendulkar shrugged off one of the worst slumps of his career with a resolute 76, it was the visitors' day as a high-quality England attack nipped out seven wickets on a track that gave them little encouragement. Monty Panesar again showed how improved a bowler he is, barely bowling a bad ball all day, James Anderson produced a reverse-swing masterclass, and they were backed up by the large-hearted efforts of a fit-again Steven Finn, who took the place of the ineffectual Stuart Broad.
The England bowling was relentless, and were helped by the wastefulness of the India batsmen. At least three wickets were gifted away on a pitch that didn't provide any alarming turn or bounce. Virender Sehwag was run-out after a schoolboy error, Gautam Gambhir played a loose cut after getting set and Yuvraj Singh gifted a catch to cover.
In contrast, Sachin Tendulkar looked determined to break his run of low scores. Walking in 15 minutes before lunch, he was extremely watchful to begin with, happy to play out the unyielding Panesar, who had dismissed him both times in the Mumbai Test. Panesar was in the middle of a marathon 21-over spell in which he varied his flight and pace, and bowled the odd ball with the scrambled seam, all without bowling any hit-me deliveries.
The runs dried up, and at the other end Finn and Anderson were getting the ball to swerve just a bit to worry Tendulkar outside off. Even when the ball was little more than 40 overs old, Anderson was getting the ball to reverse, highlighted by a dramatically indipping yorker to Tendulkar. The sustained pressure from both ends got the wicket of Virat Kohli, who nicked to second slip on 6 to extend his poor run in this series. There could have been further reward if Yuvraj had been given lbw when he was caught in front by an inducker from Anderson on nought. India would have been 136 for 5 if that appeal went England's way.
Instead, an increasingly fluent Tendulkar and a positive Yuvraj brought some stability to the innings. Though there were a few trademark Tendulkar strokes before tea, including an effortless backfoot punch down the ground for four, he was at his best in the final session. The first ball after the break was glanced to fine leg for four to bring up his first Test half-century since the New Year's Test in Sydney, a milestone which would have had his legions of fans dancing for joy, just like Harbhajan Singh was in the dressing room. Over the next hour there were paddle-sweeps, a punch over point and a cover drive reminiscent of his pomp. Thoughts of a first Test century in nearly two years were brushed aside by the nagging Anderson, though, who induced an edge to keeper with Tendulkar on 76.
Before Tendulkar, it was Gambhir who held the innings together with his second successive half-century. It wasn't his most fluent performance - he was beaten several times early on and edged a few - but he was far more assured once Panesar came on as early as the eighth over. The footwork was more certain, and the tendency to be fidgety that he has repeatedly shown against the quicks reduced. Panesar was greeted with a slap past cover in the first over, and was launched over mid-on in his next.
Early on, Sehwag was looking comfortable, untroubled by the defensive fields England set for him and India rattled along at more than 4.5 an over. Then came a moment of madness. Sehwag played what looked like the shot of the session, a fluid whip towards midwicket; Samit Patel, often the butt of jokes about his weight, sprinted across from deep-square leg to make a tumbling stop and Finn was on hand to rifle the ball back accurately. There was plenty of time for three, but both batsmen had dawdled the first two, and though Gambhir screamed 'no,no' while looking at the fielder, Sehwag started to hare back for the third, and it was too late to turn back.
That immediately brought down the scoring rate, with only seven coming off the next six overs. With the ball not doing much, Gambhir and Pujara calmly set about building the innings. However, with lunch approaching, Pujara misjudged the length of a Panesar arm ball and stayed back, only to miss the ball which hit the middle of the stumps. Panesar was whistling and dancing in celebration, knowing well the importance of the wicket of India's form batsman of this series.
With the old ball reverse-swinging prodigiously, the new ball was delayed till the 87th over, and it produced dividends almost immediately. MS Dhoni and R Ashwin had been together for about an hour, looking to safely take India through to stumps but Anderson cleaned up Ashwin for 21.
India would have been mighty pleased when they ended the first day on the square turner in Mumbai on 266 for 6. On a far less testing surface in Kolkata, the first-day total of 273 for 7 will be far less satisfying.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddarth Ravindran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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