India v England, 3rd Test, Kolkata, 1st day December 5, 2012

England bowlers wrest advantage


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 ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Al on December 7, 2012, 2:31 GMT

    Albert Einstein once said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". If India wants to stop losing - they need to dump every player except Pujara and Ojha, and start from scratch. There's no point changing a batsman here and a bowler there. Just drop everyone, and start with 9 new faces plus Ojha and Pujara. What's the worst thing that can happen? We might lose? But, we are losing anyway!!

  • Mark on December 6, 2012, 14:02 GMT

    @Meanster, full marks for backing your team through thick and thin but, yesterday, you posted that this is a tricky pitch and that India will put the England bowling effort in context. Well, that it has. I hope that England can bat through tomorrow, get the lead past 200 and declare sometime on the 4th morning, at which point, no doubt, the pitch will become tricky again. India have stuck to it today. The tail-enders hung around. The bowlers have been game. But India has not dominated a day's play since the 2nd day of the 1st Test. There is nothing worse than seeing your team fail miserably and that we saw in spades in the UAE against a Pakistan side that we knew would be tough to beat. Live. Learn. And come back stronger but, for that, a side has to acknowledge its weaknesses ad not blame the pitch, the groundsman, the umpires, unauthorised tours and Academy owners who refuse to boycott the opposition!!!

  • Mark on December 6, 2012, 9:45 GMT

    @SamuelH, if the pitch isn't a belter I hope that there will be some credit for England's 187-1 with an hour to go. Of course, another 6 wickets could fall in those 15 overs, but England have looked solid and the series is beginning to look as one-sided as we expected, just in the opposite sense. It's interesting that despite Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni making 50s and lasing the batting India are still in trouble in the match and need to react... fast. I just wonder how much more Indian morale can take. They expected to win 4-0 easily and were told time and time again that they would get revenge for being humilliated in England and for having to chase huge scores on impossible, doctored pitches. Right now they are aren't going to win 4-0 and it will take a massive turn-around to win the series at all. Will their morale crack completely? If so, can England make it 3-1? It sounds ridiculous but, right now, it looks more plausible than even 2-1 to India.

  • Dummy4 on December 6, 2012, 3:42 GMT

    Indians are in the process of rebuilding the team since there is a big gap left after the departure of dravid, laxman, ganguly and kumble. As of now there is no replacement for these giants. But people like Pujara, Rahane, and badri can add to the team. Who have good tecnique and patience. In test cricket patience is the key i think even kohli is not showing the patience that he shows in the one day matches. Allow youngsters to settle in they cannot replace the giants with in a series. I would prefer a player who has a good tecnique and composure in place of Yuvi. All the best TEAM INDIA. I think shane warne told these things will happen to Indian cricket in 2008 when india toured australia that rebuilding needs to be done with proper selection. So people please wait dont decide the players future by yourself keep it with them and enjoy the game

  • JAYARAMAN on December 6, 2012, 1:41 GMT

    English bowlers bowled far more acurately than the Indians and they bowled much less number of bad balls and the English fielders also supported their bowlers. In the Test matches so far there was definitely lack of accuracy. Indian batsmen did not utilise the starts successfully.

  • Cricket on December 6, 2012, 1:39 GMT

    @ Nampally (December 05 2012, 19:46 PM GMT) days 2 and 3 have been the best days to bat at Eden Gardens over the last few years. I don't see the tail hanging around for too long tomorrow. Then when it's India's turn to bowl and if true to form the pitch won't offer much for the spinners until days 4 and 5 when India will most likely be batting again.

    Cook and Pieterson will again be the key wickets but Compton has also looking good and Prior's always contributes but tends to get overlooked. India's bowlers must eat some humble pie and learm from the English bowlers yesterday to be disciplined if nothing is happening for them. Zaheer could be key for India with the old ball by which he may bowling to set batsmen. Lots of ifs and buts at this stage England definately ahead.

  • Dummy4 on December 6, 2012, 1:25 GMT

    Kohli & Yuvi need guidance from Fletcher. They relapse into ODI / T-20 Mode, what looks like, unintentionally ( out of 'habit'). By the way, what is Fletcher there for? Moreover, India has young players in the test match mold like Rahane & Tiwari. They should be given chances and encouraged.

  • Dummy4 on December 6, 2012, 1:24 GMT

    An interesting challenge for the England selectors in spin now ... Swann has been one of the best bowlers in the world in the last few years and yet Monty looks like the man in India - with great control and variation - are they brave enough to have 2 spinner wickets in the summer?

    And cricket needs more players like Monty - his wonderful pure boyish enthusiasm for the game is a breath of fresh air - delighted for him in his current form.

  • Merv on December 6, 2012, 1:23 GMT

    Winning all three tosses has been a major advantage for India. Especially on their grounds.

  • Dummy4 on December 6, 2012, 1:20 GMT

    RE: Indian bowling. Zak & Ishant, if we go by their recent forms can't match Anderson's performance. Similarly, Ojha & Ashwin can, at best match Swann's level, but not Monty's. That's not good enough to win this test. The onus is on the batsmen. They, by and large failed on first day. If they can produce far beter performance (as Dravid, VVS & co produced at Edens a few years ago against the OZ), there is SOME hope.

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