India v England, 3rd Test, Kolkata, 3rd day December 7, 2012

Cook's lapse does not cost England

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

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 ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Tahir on December 10, 2012, 17:47 GMT

    Nampally, Anyway, we have to praise cook for putting pressure on indian fielding and inducing fielding mistakes from them. It happens in cricket that overthrows are scored when fielding sides are under pressure. It is difficult for any side under pressure fieliding all right. Also, the same India side will field like Jonty Rhodes when there will be an opposition of weaker or similar strength. India even won the world cup when tendulkar was dropped 4 times. Simply, indian fielders do not want to toil in the field for five days when they can make it in 3 hours of T-20.

  • John on December 8, 2012, 16:52 GMT

    @PhaniBhaskar24 on (December 08 2012, 10:52 AM GMT) Credit for your honest assessment there bud

    @Moppa on (December 08 2012, 11:37 AM GMT) again an honest assessment but I'm sure PB24 agrees with what you say re the spin dept too.

  • Dummy4 on December 8, 2012, 12:41 GMT

    Indian team needs young blood and also an aggressive captain. Bring back Varun Aaron,Irfan Pathan,Abhinav Mukund,Sures Raina. Give break to batsmen like Kohli,Yuvraj and MSD. In my view MSD is not made for test cricket.

  • Guy on December 8, 2012, 11:37 GMT

    @PhaniBaskar24, not wanting to split hairs, but India's problems are way deeper than the recent retirements of VVS and Dravid, as good as those players were. Dravid has been admirably replaced by Pujara, and Laxman's output had been low for a while. Rather, 'Team India' is plagued by: an unreliable opening combination, a patchy middle-order, average keeping and batting, poor captaincy, embarassing fielding, half-hearted pace bowling and tight but uninspired spinners.

  • Phani on December 8, 2012, 10:52 GMT

    Nampally@ We being indians..should accept the fact now, we are second grade team in tests post VVS & Dravid..hard to chew..but fact has to be accepted. Luck will always play a part in every Sportsmen life & the way it T20 extragavanza, we are killing the real cricket here..while i am writing this, Ashwin ( the bowler who can bat), scored 50 & saved us from innings defeat post 1974 by England in India..Well Played England..we would be ready for sure the next time with all the changes required ( though not for 4th test of this series)

  • Dummy4 on December 8, 2012, 10:50 GMT

    Where India go from here.... Drop Virat Kohli, Ishant Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Sachin, MS Dhoni..... If India want to win the Nagpur Test and draw the series.

  • John on December 8, 2012, 9:25 GMT

    @Nampally on (December 07 2012, 20:45 PM GMT) Indeed he had luck but then by the same token I could say Compton was due a big score and had DRS been in play he'd have scored heavily or we could also go back to the 1st test when our fielders put down some of your run scorers earlier on

  • Dummy4 on December 8, 2012, 7:59 GMT

    The Spin masters could not spin... So much to speak about the Indian spinners... Whether Shane Warne comes out of retirement for the Ashes or not... India needs Anil Kumble to come out of retirement... Many changes to be made to the team... MSD should give up captaincy... he has not be successful for nearly two years now... Replace the coach... We now need a proper bowling coach... I would prefer Jumbo... or Venky Prasad... Few matches played under Venky - India did very well... Sachin should retire and give way for some good youngsters... Get back Gary as well if possible as coach... So many things to do, and I think India will lose the T20 matches they way they play now, followed by the Pak ODI tournament, and AUS Test series...

  • Vinod on December 8, 2012, 5:54 GMT

    another wonderful innings from the captain. on a lighter note i thought he felt there was not enuf challenge from the indian bowling/fielding side :-) having dropped twice early. Cook's captaincy also has been wonderful throughout the series.

  • Sharon on December 8, 2012, 4:00 GMT

    @Nampally - by stating before that England only won 4-0 in England 2011 because of India "injury" and now by stating that Cook "lucky break" all you are doing is reducing your credibility even more. Don't you understand that it is India huge weakness that cause whitewash in England and then in Australia, defeat in Mumbai and now up against it in Kolkota? The reality is right in front of you luck have nothing to do with it.

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