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December 22, 2008
This was a time to boss England, but instead India were forced to scrap. Any thoughts that India had of quickly piling onto to a 151-run lead, taken through Harbhajan Singh's quick strikes on another foggy morning, evaporated in the afternoon sunshine as England turned in a vigorous spell. In an enthralling session between lunch and tea, a disciplined England seam attack removed Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar to rattle India, and suddenly the hosts were on the back foot. Sitting on a 1-0 lead going into the final day of the series, they needed a counterpunching innings from Yuvraj Singh to get back into safe territory, ending the day 285 in front with six wickets in hand.
Facing a massive deficit, England needed to do something out of the ordinary to curb India's pre-lunch intent. Step forward Ian Bell. Sehwag drove the ball back to Stuart Broad, who took some pace off the shot even as Sehwag hurried out of the blocks. The ball rolled towards Bell at short cover, who gathered it and raced Sehwag to the other end. Then, with the ball in hand, Bell dived forward to bulldoze the stumps and Sehwag didn't even stop to check what the umpires had to say. Sehwag has been run out only twice in Tests, and both times Gautam Gambhir has been a partner.
The ball did a bit in the afternoon as James Anderson and Broad bowled a fuller length in this innings and zeroed in on a precise line. After a courageous hundred in the first innings, Dravid was put under pressure by 18 scoreless deliveries from Anderson before the 19th, from Broad, stayed low and knocked back the middle stump.
Twenty-two scoreless deliveries followed, with Andrew Flintoff coming into the attack and also adhering to a strict line. There was some swing for Anderson and Broad, and also movement off the pitch, and they hustled the batsmen into some loose shots. Broad plugged away at one end and was unfortunate to see Tendulkar escape with two faint inside-edges onto pad.
After an impressive nine-over spell, Broad was replaced by Anderson and the change of ends worked like a charm. Within three deliveries of a superb over, England were in the ascendancy as Tendulkar, beaten the ball before, steered one straight to gully. At 44 for 3 India were sweating, even though with the lead they were effectively 195 for 3.
Anderson, especially, got the ball to move in both directions, which made it difficult for the batsmen to pick up the swing. His second spell, which read 7-5-7-1, was built on a simple formula: pitch it full - there were only two short balls - and move the ball just enough to unsettle the batsmen. In the 19.1 overs since Sehwag had departed, India scored just 26 runs in what was England's most promising passage of the Test.
Kevin Pietersen began the final session with a defensive field, with four men manning the boundary despite India's slow approach. VVS Laxman got off a pair but kept poking outside off stump to Anderson, once edging wide of second slip and then being rapped on the pads. Anderson mixed it up to Laxman, managing good reverse-swing off a tidy line, but it was a run-out that ended Laxman's struggle after a 49-ball 15.
With an overall lead of 241 India were still ahead, but the manner in which they batted didn't suggest it. England were the dominant side and India had been forced to consolidate.
But like the man he replaced in this team had in a similar collapse at The Oval in 2007, Yuvraj produced a Sourav Ganguly-esque innings to get India out of a jam. While Gambhir retracted further into a shell, Yuvraj cracked Panesar for two fours in his first three deliveries. Drives flowed past cover and mid-on, and as the shadows lengthened in Mohali, Yuvraj emphatically swung Panesar with the turn for six to the cheers of the home crowd. Yuvraj's brisk knock, in stark contrast to Gambhir's 155-ball effort, helped India progress to 134 for 4.
India had started the fourth morning encouragingly, after heavy fog delayed play by two hours, by nipping out the last four wickets in 10.3 overs. England resumed their first innings on 282 for 6, trailing by 171 runs, and proceeded to collapse after India decided to not take the new ball.
Harbhajan struck with the first ball of the third over as Matt Prior tickled an offspinner down the leg side, a doosra turned out to be too much for Broad to fathom, Zaheer Khan only had to pitch one delivery on the stumps to bowl Graeme Swann, and Panesar prodded to Gambhir. England had lost six wickets for 20 runs either side of the close of play, giving India a handy lead.
But instead of looking to declare before stumps, India found themselves struggling to hold on.
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