|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Fantasy||Mobile|
At Nottingham, July 27, 28, 29, 30, 31. India won by seven wickets. Toss: India.
This was one of India's finest away wins: only their 29th in all, in their 200th Test abroad. They bounced back after Lord's, without any cricket in between, and played as a team, aggressively when needed. Traditionally, India are slow starters and have often lost their opening Test in England. But whenever they have avoided defeat in that first game, they have gone on to win the series. Learning quickly, India were much tighter in their bowling, batting techniques and general application than at Lord's; only one catch was dropped, a chance offered by Tremlett to Tendulkar at first slip.
The behaviour of both sides came under the microscope as tempers frayed and it became clear that this would be a "result Test" which would probably decide the series. When tailender Zaheer Khan walked out to bat on the third evening, he found a couple of jelly beans in the batting crease. Incensed at this breach of manners - putting sweets and rubbish on the pitch was known in the county game but not international cricket - Zaheer brandished his bat at Pietersen, who denied any wrong-doing, and suspicion fell on Bell, who was fielding closer to the bat. It seems to have been a childish prank which got out of hand; newspapers called it "Jellybeangate". Although England's coach, Peter Moores, did not condemn it during the game, Vaughan expressed regrets afterwards. "If we offended Zaheer in any way, we apologise, but there were no jelly beans thrown from the slip cordon," he said. From short leg, then? What is certain is that the incident fired up Zaheer to bowl his best in England's second innings, and his aggression rubbed off on his team-mates.
India's behaviour was not beyond reproach either. In that second innings Sreesanth, an excitable young man, bowled a beamer straight at Pietersen's head. Afterwards he held up his hand but uttered no word of apology. Later, Sreesanth ran through the crease by a couple of feet and bowled a bouncer from round the wicket at Collingwood. He received a severe dressing-down from his captain, Dravid, as well as ICC referee Ranjan Madugalle, and was fined 50% of his match fee for shoulder-barging Vaughan. Pools of rainwater stood on the outfield the day before the match. The first morning was sunny, but play was impossible until after lunch, when 55 overs were scheduled, and then a mat had to be placed over a wet patch at third man near the pavilion. The pitch had a smattering of live grass on the surface and enough moisture below for fast bowlers to smack their lips in anticipation.
It was a very important toss for Dravid to win, but India still had to bowl well. Zaheer produced an indifferent first over, much like the one he had bowled at Lord's. Then everything fell dramatically in order. Zaheer drew Strauss into a drive wide of his stumps before taking the edge of Vaughan's bat; both were caught by Tendulkar at first slip. The two batsmen who had been such thorns on the opening day at Lord's had now gone.
Throughout the game, left-armers Zaheer and R. P. Singh showed tremendous control from over and round the wicket, and they swung the ball both ways: conventional swing most of the time after all the rain, reversing it only when the ball was really old. The pair had often bowled round the wicket on India's previous tour, of Bangladesh, but England's batsmen seemed unprepared for the unfamiliar angle, once a speciality of Wasim Akram, and their shot-selection left a lot to be desired. The right-handers in particular did not seem to know which way the ball was going to swing. Pietersen in his second innings shouldered arms to an inswinger and walked before he was given out.
By tea on the first day, at 94 for three from 24 overs, England appeared to have weathered the storm. But Collingwood inside-edged an ambitious off-drive and Ganguly had Cook lbw, even though the batsman was standing well outside his crease and had taken a big stride. Kumble surprised Prior with a leg-break and Zaheer made sure Bell wouldn't toll the next day: left with the tail, Bell hit out too soon and was lbw whipping across the line. Next morning, Kumble and Zaheer put the lid on England's innings at 198, a total below par even in the bowling conditions.
The response of India's openers, Karthik and Wasim Jaffer, was a turning point. England were desperate to get into the Indian middle order when the ball was new, so the 16 overs before lunch on the second day were critical. The batsmen kept getting beaten, but kept hitting fours. Every passing minute made their confidence grow in equal measure to England's desperation. Balls missed the edge, chances fell short of fielders, and some plain-looking leg-before appeals were turned down, especially two by Panesar to umpire Howell in his first two overs, one against each opener.
The three hours Jaffer and Karthik were together defined the Test as they forged India's first century opening stand in England since 1979, when Sunil Gavaskar and Chetan Chauhan shared two. Though the openers were dismissed either side of tea, neither going on to a deserved hundred, India's famed middle order now brought all their experience to the fore. Dravid made an important 37 when England sensed an opening on the second evening; Tendulkar made a patchy start but passed the milestone of 11,000 Test runs, so his heart was in the right place when the indefatigable Sidebottom gave him a hellish spell with the second new ball next morning. Ganguly batted fluently but, like Tendulkar, fell victim to a poor decision by umpire Taufel, which proved that even the best make mistakes. Tendulkar was given out padding up to a ball from Collingwood which was going to miss off stump; Ganguly swished at a ball going down the leg side, and missed, but a noise persuaded Taufel that he had touched it.
India's eventual first-innings lead was 283. An hour and two days' play remained for England to negotiate, but a flattening pitch held out hopes for a scrappy draw. Sure enough, England saw out the 16 remaining overs that evening without tremors. Swing was missing from India's new-ball bowlers and so was zip. But the fourth day began ominously: Zaheer, almost immediately, managed disconcerting swing and sent Cook packing. Despite a rearguard stand between Strauss and Vaughan, help for bowlers was there for all to see. Vaughan dropped anchor and produced perhaps the most significant innings since his knee operation. With Collingwood taking root at the other end, England saw more than a shimmering light at the end of the tunnel.
Luck then intervened in the form of Vaughan's dismissal. He shaped to flick a ball from Zaheer (round the wicket) but found to his horror that the ball had bounced down off the bottom of his thigh pad and rolled on to his stumps. Vaughan had lasted 193 balls, hitting 18 fours; Bell lasted just two, and Prior was bowled by a big inswinger from Singh round the wicket. England lost their final seven for 68 as the second new ball caused mayhem. Zaheer never had a better or more valuable day in Test cricket. India chased down their target of 73 on the final morning. Again, their opening batsmen provided a sound start. Tremlett showed what a force he could be on a fifthday track where the ball leapt at the batsmen from a spot, claiming three wickets, including Tendulkar caught at leg gully. But India went on to record only their fifth win in 47 Tests and 75 years of visiting England.
Man of the Match: Zaheer Khan.