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March 19, 2006
Fortunes ebbed and flowed on an intriguing second day at Mumbai, at the close of which the match was superbly poised, with England perhaps marginally in front. Despite a powerful hand by debutant Owais Shah, who fell just 12 short of a hundred on debut, England collapsed to 400, before hitting back strongly with the ball. India were reduced to 28 for 3 - the casualties included Sachin Tendulkar - before Yuvraj Singh and Rahul Dravid revived the innings with a fluent 61-run stand, leaving India 311 adrift at close of play.
After only three wickets fell on the opening day, there was plenty more excitement on the second. Sreesanth and Munaf Patel led India's fightback with the ball, ensuring that seven wickets fell for 74 to limit England to a manageable total, but then the Indian batsmen themselves struggled against a hostile and incisive England attack, till Yuvraj and Dravid pulled the innings back on track.
The Wankhede Stadium pitch was still a fine one for batting, with even pace and carry, but it has afforded the bowlers encouragement by way of bounce, and Matthew Hoggard and co. exploited that to the hilt when India came out to bat just before tea. Sehwag's position as Hoggard's bunny was further reinforced, as was his shortcoming against the short ball. Hoggard has now nailed him six times - more than any other bowler - but more than that, it was the manner of dismissal - gloving a bouncer to slip - that will cause the Indian think-tank plenty of concern.
Wasim Jaffer was quickly consumed by a short ball as well, and when Tendulkar, the other home boy, pottered 20 balls and then reached out and nicked a wide ball, India had managed all of 28 runs in 18 overs, with three top-order batsmen in the hutch.
England's strategy was superb, and the implementation even better. Hoggard, Flintoff and even James Anderson - the least threatening of the three bowlers - gave the batsmen little to drive on the front foot. The good-length balls were mixed with a generous dose of short deliveries, keeping the batsmen pinned back. And despite taking early wickets, Flintoff refrained from over-attacking and over-crowding the slip cordon, ensuring there were enough fielders in the ring to cut off the singles.
The advent of Yuvraj, though, shifted the momentum completely, with 61 coming off the next 18.5. The sublime form he has been in over the last few months showed immediately, as he launched into sumptuous drives and flicks - one extra-cover drive off Anderson, early in his innings, was especially glorious. His first 30 runs came off 27 balls, and with Dravid playing his anchor's part to perfection, Flintoff was suddenly forced to post fielders on the boundary. England's second spin option, Shaun Udal, was a liability too, and England quickly switched back to pace to keep a lid on the runs as India ended the day breathing far easier.
If the third-wicket stand would have pleased Dravid, then so would have the team's performance with the ball, after an ordinary first day. Despite reprieving Flintoff thrice off Munaf Patel - including drops off successive balls - the bowlers fought back superbly, with Sreesanth in the forefront. He got rid of Paul Collingwood, ending an 84-run stand for the fourth wicket, which started the slide, and then quickly got rid of Geraint Jones as well, paving the way for the other bowlers to make their mark.
And Munaf did, with two wickets in two balls to further dent England's hopes of a total in the vicinity of 450. Any bowler might have felt that the force wasn't with him after his run of bad luck, but Munaf bowled with heart and courage, and ultimately deserved more than just the two wickets in his bowling analysis.
Through the mayhem at the other end, Shah stood his ground. Resuming on 50 after an attack of cramps the previous day, he played with skill, flair, and plenty of common sense. His strokeplay was sumptuous, the defence solid, and his batting with the tail extremely purposeful. Unbeaten on 65 when the eighth wicket fell, Shah assumed the role of senior batsman, nurdling the singles towards the end of the over to keep strike, but also not missing out on opportunities to crunch a couple of powerful boundaries despite a well spread-out field. Just 12 short of becoming the 17th centurion on debut for England - and second in this series - Shah fell, caught quite brilliantly at slip by Dravid. Harbhajan then wrapped up the innings to finish with three - a rich haul given his poor form - though by close of play England had struck back to leave the match perfectly poised.
How they were out
Virender Sehwag c Shah b Hoggard 6 (9 for 1)
Fended at a superb short ball, straight to first slip
Wasim Jaffer c Jones b Hoggard 11 (24 for 2)
Tried to leave short one outside leg, but gloved it
Sachin Tendulkar c Jones b Anderson 1 (28 for 3)
Chased a wide one
Paul Collingwood c Dhoni b Sreesanth 31 (326 for 4)
Nicked one that pitched in the corridor and moved away a shade
Andrew Flintoff c Tendulkar b Kumble 50 (328 for 5)
Mistimed a hoick, good running catch at midwicket
Geraint Jones c Kumble b Sreesanth 1 (333 for 6)
Edged a drive to gully
Shaun Udal lbw b Munaf 9 (356 for 7)
Beaten as he shuffled and tried to play around his front pad
Matthew Hoggard b Munaf 0 (356 for 8)
Beaten by late inswing, leg stump knocked out
Owais Shah c Dravid b Harbhajan 88 (385 for 9)
Edge to slip, superb diving one-handed catch
James Anderson c Yuvraj b Harbhajan 15 (400 all out)
Inside edge taken on second attempt
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