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It is a mark of the expectations England's captain has of himself that even 190 didn't feel like enough. Still, his team never let control of the match slip
George Dobell in Kolkata
December 7, 2012
Most batsmen would have been delighted to finish with a score of 190, but not Alastair Cook. The somewhat absent minded manner of his dismissal - failing to ground his bat as he avoided a hard and accurate throw from Virat Kohli - left him "deeply upset" in the words of Jonathan Trott.
Cook's century, his third of the series, helped England build a dominant position on the third day. It was not particularly exciting, it was not particularly pretty and it was not at all easy, but it was a day when England inexorably took a grip on this Test. Some tight bowling from India prevented England scoring at the run-rate they may have liked but a lead of 193, on a pitch beginning to offer more assistance to the bowlers, tightened their grip on India until it became suffocating. Boa Constrictors kill just as effectively as tigers.
While that, in time, will no doubt console Cook, he was disappointed at both failing to register the third double-century of his Test career and by failing to ensure, through his own actions, that England took advantage of their strong platform to establish a match-winning position.
"He was deeply upset and realised what an opportunity he had out there to still be batting tonight," Trott said. "That's the way he is. He'll be very disappointed.
"He's not one who will express too much emotion or disgust, but deep down I know he'll be very upset. He didn't really say anything. We just let him stew. I'd just put it down as a freak dismissal."
Cook need not have worried. Such was the strong performance of his colleagues that England did not squander their chance. They now have an excellent chance to inflict a second successive defeat on a side who have not suffered such an indignity at home in more than a decade.
Trott made his highest score since the Test in Galle in March, Kevin Pietersen provided valuable impetus and Samit Patel, Graeme Swann and, in particular, Matt Prior produced selfless performances to press home England's advantage and punish a weary attack. Even Ian Bell, who fell to an unworthy flail, could be partially excused as he did so in a bid to pick-up the scoring pace and earn enough time to bowl India out once more. England will, according to Trott, bat on in the morning, with India facing a fight to avoid an innings defeat.
Certainly Trott took encouragement from the obvious deterioration in the pitch over the course of the day. While it is no minefield, there were signs of far more turn for the spinners and some uneven bounce for the seamers. As Trott hinted, had India utilised the conditions a little better, batting could have been far more difficult.
"It was pretty flat for the first couple of days," Trott said. "But now there's maybe a bit more turn and variable bounce. I had a few that I left that kept low. If they'd been straight it would have been quite tricky."
Well though India's spinners performed on day three, the suspicion remains that the sharper pace at which the England spinners bowl might prove more dangerous on this surface. England's seamers will also feel they can utilise the cracks in the pitch more effectively than their Indian counterparts.
The sight of India's players, exhausted and demoralised, lying on the outfield and receiving massage at stumps, will have done little to dishearten England. The fact that India face a seventh successive session in the field at the start of the fourth day will do little for their morale. India may be clinging to the memory of the miraculous victory over Australia here in the Test of 2001 and it is true that cricket would not be nearly such an entertaining game if it was predictable. But there is no Rahul Dravid or VVS Laxman now and the absent Harbhajan Singh is not the bowler he once was.
Indeed, when we come to reflect on this match, we may well conclude that strength, fitness and fielding has been the difference between the sides.
The two defining moments came in the first four sessions of the game. In the first, two England players, one a fast bowler who could have got away with a spell of grazing in the outfield, the other a somewhat corpulent fellow with little reputation in the field, conjured a run-out from nothing. Patel pulled off an excellent diving stop after a long chase to prevent the boundary and pushed the ball back for the supporting Steven Finn to produce the throw that ran-out Virender Sehwag. It was a moment that defined teamwork and commitment; a moment that spoke volumes about the importance of going the extra mile.
It was also a moment that stood in contrast to India's sometimes apathetic and listless display in the field. For in the second defining moment of this game came when a young man, Pujara, found himself at slip while still wearing shin pads and a chest guard from his spell at short-leg and dropped a man in the form of his life. On the third day, Sehwag showed the folly of his absence from the slips by taking the sharpest of chances to dismiss Patel.
Cook cared so much he struggled to deal with the disappointment of being out for 190. India cared so little they could not be bothered to get their best fielders in the most important positions or ensure they were dressed appropriately. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that if England win this series, it will because they wanted it more.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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