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The Bulletin by Anand Vasu in Mohali
March 12, 2006
Close England 300 and 112 for 5 (Bell 57, Flintoff 16*) lead India 338 (Dravid 95, Flintoff 4-96) by 74 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A determined knock from Rahul Dravid, backed by aggressive innings from Irfan Pathan and the tail paved the way for India to take a small lead, then bowl aggressively on a pitch offering assistance, and grab control of the match. It was a long day as India relentlessly pressed forward, and the rewards eventually came. If the weather holds on the last day - and the forecast is for sunshine - England will have to bat out of their skins, as at 112 for 5 their lead is only 74, to stay alive in the match.
India were in a dodgy situation when they began the day at 149 for 4, but a masterful innings from Rahul Dravid, who narrowly missed out on a century, and some rousing resistance by the tail ensured that they secured an invaluable 38-run first innings lead. Then Anil Kumble, the old master, set to work, and with the ball turning and bouncing when the bowling was from the Pavilion End, resistance was futile. Repeatedly he pushed batsmen onto the back foot, and once he had them there he nailed them.
Alastair Cook began the slide, with only seven on the board when he followed a Munaf Patel delivery that left him a shade and edged to the keeper. Andrew Strauss, batting under duress, could hardly get going, and even 105 minutes at the crease only yielded 13 runs before a freakish dismissal brought about his downfall. He swept hard at Kumble and the ball went down onto boot and then pad off a bottom edge before ballooning up for Dhoni to catch.
Kevin Pietersen, the one English batsman to really take the attack to the Indian spinners, was gone five runs later and suddenly England were wobbling at 55 for 3. Pietersen swept at Harbhajan Singh, and was unlucky to be adjudged caught when the ball had gone off his forearm and looped up to Dravid. Harbhajan, though, was in no mood to empathise - he has suffered a lot in recent times and desperately sought a wicket. When it finally came, with a little help from Darrell Hair, the spontaneous outburst of emotion from Harbhajan was a sight and a half.
Bell watched wicket after wicket fall at the other end, but held fast, somehow smothering the rip and bounce, nudging, dabbing and working the ball into the gaps. He accumulated as best as possible, but never looked in control, and when Paul Collingwood poked at a legbreak and edged to slip, leaving England at 88 for 4, disaster was round the corner.
Even Flintoff, normally aggressive and looking to take on the spinners, was forced to put his head down and concentrate on keeping the ball out. Kumble in particular beat him more than once and on a different day could well have dismissed him early. Bell resisted stoutly with Flintoff, but with light fading, on 57, an attempted forcing shot off the back foot resulted in an outside edge that Dhoni smartly snapped up. Flintoff battled hard and lived to fight another day, reaching 16 at stumps.
But in all the euphoria over India's bowling, it would be cruel to forget what was achieved in the first half of the day. Dhoni was caught behind after adding just four to his overnight score, and there was a real chance India, playing this game with one batsman less than usual, would be skittled out cheaply. There was no skittling out Dravid, however, and Irfan Pathan batted with a freedom and clarity of purpose that had eluded the more illustrious batsmen that came before him. Dravid's innings, a picture of concentration and deliberate, thoughtful application, came to an end when he dragged a Flintoff delivery that moved in off the pitch and stayed a touch low. Dravid's 95 was his eighth dismissal in the 90s in Tests.
Pathan batted on regardless, despite the fall of Dravid. He backed himself when the ball was in his areas, lofting the spinner over off, pulling the quick men in front of square when the ball was short, and in bringing up his 6 th half-century from just 29 innings, lifted India to 260 for 7 before being dismissed.
Then Kumble, who is looking younger and more sprightly with every passing day, helped himself to 32, Harbhajan biffed his way to 36, and even Patel banged a six and a four as India made their way to 338. The lead was a small one, but it was enough to allow Kumble and his friends to come to the party. England, ahead by only 74, need plenty of rain, or something special, to halt India's victory march.
Mahendra Dhoni c Jones b Harmison 16 (153 for 5)
Surprised by a ball that bounced more than he expected
Rahul Dravid b Flintoff 95 (229 for 6)
Inside edged back onto leg stump
Irfan Pathan c Collingwood b Flintoff 52 (260 for 7)
Drove uppishly to point
Harbhajan Singh c Jones b Flintoff 36 (313 for 8)
Wafted at one outside the off
Piyush Chawla c Collingwood b Hoggard 1 (321 for 9)
Glided a slower ball to point
Anil Kumble b Plunkett 32 (338 for 10)
Bowled by a well directed yorker
Alastair Cook c Dhoni b Patel 2 (7 for 1)
Chased a ball that was leaving him
Andrew Strauss c Dhoni b Kumble 13 (50 for 2)
Swept onto boot and pad and the ball ballooned to the keeper
Kevin Pietersen c Dravid b Harbhajan 4 (55 for 3)
Unlucky to be given out caught after ball looped to slip off forearm
Paul Collingwood c Dravid b Kumble 14 (88 for 4)
Edged a legbreak to slip
Ian Bell c Dhoni b Kumble 57 (109 for 5)
Attempted a forcing shot off the back foot and only managed an outside edge
As West Indies play their 500th Test, here's an interactive journey through their Test history