India v England, 1st Test, Nagpur, 5th day

Under-strength England expose Indian weakness

This was a Test match dominated by an under-strength English side

Dileep Premachandran in Nagpur

March 5, 2006

Text size: A | A



Rahul Dravid: It was a good effort [by England]. A week back, they had a lot of problems. This just goes to show that they are a good team © AFP
Enlarge

The flurry of strokes soon after tea which made the improbable appear possible, albeit briefly, couldn't obscure the fact that this was a Test match dominated by an under-strength English side. Till Irfan Pathan, sent in at No.4, carved a four and a straight six off Andrew Flintoff, no one present at the ground had even harboured notions of the match being anything other than a mundane stalemate. Pathan's 25-ball cameo, a cat-on-hot-tin-roof 16 from Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and a little gem from Sachin Tendulkar heightened the collective pulse rate, but as Rahul Dravid admitted later, the pursuit of 368 was never really on.

"We looked at the situation at tea time and thought we would try and give England a little bit of a scare," he said. "But it was always going to be a challenge on a slow, low wicket. Chasing eight runs an over was never going to be easy, but we just had a dip. If Dhoni or Irfan has a good day, you can never say."

What the stroke barrage also did was deflect attention away from a wonderfully assured maiden century. The early loss of Virender Sehwag - Mohammad Asif had taken him out in similar fashion at Karachi - had the potential to be a hammer blow but with Dravid buckling down as though he intended to bat right up to Mohali, it was up to Wasim Jaffer to ensure that the English bowlers didn't put an anaconda squeeze on the batting.

He did that with a repertoire of elegant strokes, mostly off his legs, and his hundred elicited considerable praise from Dravid, who had performed the makeshift opener's role in all three Tests in Pakistan. "Wasim played two lovely knocks," he said. "He has been out of international cricket for quite a while. He went back and scored tons of runs in domestic cricket, earned his place in the side. Hopefully, this will kick-start a successful career for him. His temperament and composure were very creditable."

Jaffer's success and Mohammad Kaif's defiant, and possibly match-saving, 91 have given the team management something of a dilemma ahead of the second Test, and Dravid said as much. "With Yuvraj fit now, we are going to have choices to make. Probably, someone is going to be unlucky but that's the way it is. That's the way life is. We are happy for the boys who came in and performed very well. Kaif has been in and out of the side for a while. He has been playing one-day cricket for us. He came in and played a critical knock for us in the first innings."

Despite being under the cosh for the best part of the match after dominating the opening day, Dravid reckoned that India too would head to Mohali in good cheer. "The positives were the way we fought back from some tough situations," he said. "Anil [Kumble] and Kaif's partnership, to bat out the last day on the fifth-day wicket -- it's never easy, there is a bit of pressure. We showed some good application as well. The spirit is pretty good, we can take that with us."

He defended the decision to play only four bowlers, saying that the sixth specialist batsman - Kaif - had done everything asked of him. "We thought that there would be more bounce and turn but it was quite a slow, low wicket. Not much bounce throughout the game. As the game progressed, it became slower. If you played defensively, it was difficult to get out. We're not too disappointed but for the next match, if we need to take 20 wickets, we will try to do better."



'He ran in hard in both the innings, bent his back and did a lot of had work' - Dravid on Sreesanth © Getty Images
Enlarge

That said, he was appreciative of the effort that his pace bowlers put in on a surface that offered negligible assistance. "Both Irfan and Sreesanth bowled well on a wicket that didn't offer them much. Sreesanth was very impressive in his first Test. He ran in hard in both the innings, bent his back and did a lot of had work. I think that's a good sign for us. We were looking for someone who would hit the deck and bowl around 135-140 and, hopefully, Sreesanth can go on from here."

Predictably, there were uncomfortable questions about those who struggled, with both Harbhajan Singh and Sehwag under the microscope. "It was not an easy wicket to bowl on," he said. "The spinners didn't get as much bounce as we thought they might. It's easy to be critical but Harbhajan is a proven performer for us and I am sure that before this series is over, he will hopefully have a major role to play."

As for Sehwag, Dravid preferred to focus on what he offers, rather than this failure here. "He is someone who tends to go through a run of low scores and then come up with a big match-winning knock. When he gets going, he tends to score big runs and at a rate that gives us a great chance to win Test matches. He will have a few lean patches and you have got to accept that sometimes."

Having talked of his own team, Dravid was unstinting in his praise of the English. "Their batting was very good in both the innings, and two of their batsmen made hundreds as well. It was a good effort. A week back, they had a lot of problems. This just goes to show that they are a good team. They have been playing good cricket for the last two or three years."

He refused to be too critical of the declaration which left India with only 90 overs to bat out to save the game. "I thought they might give us a few overs last night, and if Pietersen had stayed on for a while, there may have been a chance for them to score a bit quicker. With [Alastair] Cook batting really well and nearing a century on debut, they were obviously keen to give him that chance. So they had to wait for that. By then, it was probably a little late."

That was perhaps just as well for an Indian side that got the rudest of wake-up calls in a series that they were expected to dominate. Led by the immense Andrew Flintoff, England simply won't go quietly.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: Dileep Premachandran

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

FeedbackTop
Email Feedback Print
Share
E-mail
Feedback
Print
Dileep PremachandranClose
Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to MyIndia.com followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and total-cricket.com. Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.

    'Like a ballet dancer'

My XI: Martin Crowe on Mark Waugh's lazy elegance and batsmanship that was easy on eye

    Sea, sun, scandal

Diary: Our correspondent takes in the sights and sounds of Galle and Colombo, and reports on a tampering controversy

    Worst keepers, and honours at Lord's

Ask Steven: Also, most keeping dismissals on debut, seven-for at HQ, and youngest ODI centurions

    From swinging London to Maco country

Diary: Our correspondent walks and buses the streets of the English capital, and then heads for the coast

'Fast-bowling injuries account for two-thirds of games missed'

The Cricket Couch: Australian physio Alex Kountouris talks about player health management

News | Features Last 7 days

Vijay rediscovers the old Monk

The leave outside off stump has been critical to M Vijay's success since his India comeback last year. Contrary to popular opinion, such patience and self-denial comes naturally to him

Bhuvneshwar on course for super series

Only 15 times in Test history has a player achieved the double of 300 runs and 20 wickets in a Test series. Going on current form, Bhuvneshwar could well be the 16th

Ugly runs but still they swoon

Alastair Cook did not bat like a leading man but the crowd applauded him for simply not failing

India come full circle

India's wretched run away from home began at Lord's in 2011. A young team full of self-belief may have brought it to an end with their victory at the same venue three years later

Ishant's fourth-innings heroics in rare company

In India's win at Lord's, Ishant Sharma took the best bowling figures by an Indian in the fourth innings of a Test outside Asia. Here are five other best bowling efforts by Indians in the fourth innings of Tests outside Asia

News | Features Last 7 days
Sponsored Links

Why not you? Read and learn how!