|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
At Lord's, July 19, 20, 21, 22, 23. Drawn. Toss: England. Test debut: C. T. Tremlett.
The weather toyed with this Test throughout, threatening to submerge Lord's on the second morning, disrupting play on every day bar one, and tantalisingly whisking victory from England on the last afternoon. Not that they could lump all the blame on the clouds. England had bowled beautifully to dismiss India for 201 before lunch on Saturday, but were left to rue a dilatory over-rate on day five. In dwindling light, with rain circling ever closer and Panesar bowling much of the time, they should have managed more than 14 an hour. They conjured nine wickets and came within a whisker of the tenth but, despite the presence of Harry Potter (or his cinematic embodiment, Daniel Radcliffe), there was no magic ending - at least not for England. India survived 96 overs, the longest innings of the match.
At the heart of this enthralling game was cricket's utter unpredictability. On the first day, England's batsmen effortlessly took advantage of a decent wicket and Indian bowling too close to leg stump; in the evening session, the scoreboard read 218 for one. Yet with the weather shifting the balance from bat to ball, the next 38 wickets produced just 845 more runs. The pitch stayed true, but the rain that drowned Friday morning caused the ball to swing as if it were early May, and the pace bowlers revelled in the chance to show off their dark arts. Two in particular cast a spell over the batsmen: Anderson and Zaheer Khan moved the ball both ways, and late, causing havoc. In such conditions, Pietersen's second-innings hundred - he said he had never played better - was a masterpiece, even if it could not quite deliver victory.
England fielded a green attack. Convinced that Tendulkar was susceptible to bounce, the selectors had drafted in the uncapped 6ft 6in Stuart Broad after Steve Harmison exacerbated a hernia injury. Then Hoggard dropped out with a back spasm, and Chris Tremlett, an inch taller than Broad, arrived. Apparently a real handful in the nets, Tremlett was chosen ahead of Broad despite not being in the original squad. He became only the sixth grandson to follow his grandfather into Test cricket: Maurice Tremlett played three times against West Indies in 1947-48. Anderson came in for his first home Test in almost three years, and the combined experience of the bowling quartet - 127 wickets in 37 Tests - was less than Zaheer's 142 in 47, never mind Kumble's 552 in 115. For the first time, England could field none of the five bowlers who wrested back the Ashes in 2005, though they hardly noticed their absence. India played two wicketkeepers, Karthik as a specialist opener.
Vaughan chose to bat under high cloud and, as Strauss and Cook punished wayward bowling, runs flooded the morning session. The good pitch and a bad forecast made a draw seem inevitable. Ganguly removed Cook with an inswinger, his first Test wicket in 18 months, but Strauss - spared on 43 when Karthik spilled a straightforward chance off a crooked cover drive - and Vaughan settled in.
Strauss was on 96 when the pressure caused by a run of 42 international innings without a hundred told. Thinking to end the drought in the grand manner, he shimmied down the wicket to Kumble, who slid the ball through quickly. Dravid pocketed the edge at slip, his 150th Test catch. Even after faltering to 268 for four at the close, England seemed set for a dominant score.
Next morning's monsoon came straight from the Old Testament. By 12.45, after two inches of rain, the outfield looked likelier to host a regatta than a Test. Optimists talked of an hour or two in the evening, pessimists of a washout. The groundstaff fell into a third category: miracle-workers. Thanks to their hard graft - and two miles of drainage installed for £1.25m in 2002 - play resumed at 1.50. Refunding a Friday sell-out would have cost around £1.5m. However, the restart was so astoundingly prompt that the ground was three-quarters empty.
It wasn't just spectators caught by surprise: there was a shock for the batsmen in this post-diluvian world. No cover could have prevented all moisture reaching the pitch, and the combination of swing, the new ball and better direction produced a flurry of wickets. Zaheer, after persistently troubling Pietersen, at last found his edge. He walked immediately, only to see the England balcony gesturing at the giant screen. Pietersen turned back towards the square and, moments later, was controversially reinstated.
Ranjan Madugalle, the referee, gave the official sequence of events: Dhoni dives and clings on; umpire Taufel upholds Zaheer's appeal with Pietersen already heading for the pavilion. But Bucknor, the square-leg umpire, his view impeded by a fielder, doubts whether the ball has carried; he tells Taufel, who refers to the TV umpire. At this point, England team-mates signal to Pietersen that the third umpire is about to make a ruling, which eventually results in a reprieve.
Whatever the precise order, Pietersen made no use of his reinstatement, unambiguously edging Zaheer two deliveries later. Sreesanth also made fine use of the swinging ball to grab three lbws, and England folded in a soggy heap: six wickets fell for 26, five for 12.
Conditions were testing rather than impossible, though Anderson exploited them exquisitely. His dismissal of Ganguly on the third morning was one to replay in the mind on dark winter evenings: after successive outswingers slanted across the lefthander, Anderson bowled what looked like another. But it swung in late and zipped between bat and pad. Bowling with a consistency many thought beyond him, he ended with a Test-best five for 42. Tremlett, although not always making the batsman play, kept things tight. Like England before them, India had squandered a promising position, lurching from 155 for four to 201, to trail by 97. India soon stole two wickets, but the weather stole much of Saturday afternoon.
Then came Pietersen. Shaky at first as left-armers Zaheer and R. P. Singh angled the ball past the bat, he improved his foot movement, and his scratchiness gave way to smooth, confident strokes. They were needed, too: England were 132 for five, and on marshy ground, when Prior joined Pietersen. Together they followed a path to safety in a stand worth 119, picking their way cautiously before striding out once the route was clear. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, Pietersen reached his ninth Test hundred, moving from 89 to 103 in four balls, a textbook case of the nerveless nineties. He was less adept at shepherding the tail, though, and once Tremlett made a pair the certainty left his game. Singh, bowling with occasional menace, claimed a maiden Test five-for.
India needed 380 in four sessions, though Monday's forecast was dire. Despite the new ball losing its swing, they soon lost two wickets. Then Panesar trapped Tendulkar, tucking his bat behind his pad, which prompted perhaps the most exuberant celebration seen at Lord's. A blur of arms, legs and broad grin, Panesar pogoed and windmilled his way towards the boundary. By the close, India were 137 for three.
Next morning, while most of the country was awash, Lord's stayed dry. The overnight batsmen fell quickly, but Laxman and Dhoni did not. Not always convincingly or conventionally, Dhoni defied England, though they did whittle away at the other end after lunch. Despite deteriorating light, Vaughan spent an age honing his fields, and almost every over brought another light-meter inspection. Shortly after the eighth wicket fell, England, at last betraying some urgency, resorted exclusively to spin. With the scoreboards dazzling in the dark, Panesar took India's ninth. One ball would do it, but in such murk, each ball might be the last. Panesar was convinced he had Sreesanth lbw but, unlike Hawk-Eye, umpire Bucknor said no. And then, five minutes before the scheduled tea, came the offer of light - and salvation for India.
Man of the Match: K. P. Pietersen