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  • India v England, 4th Test, Nagpur, 2nd day

Anderson, Root and Swann star on England's day

The Report by Andrew McGlashan
December 14, 2012 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »
India 87 for 4 (Kohli 11*, Dhoni 8*, Anderson 3-24) trail England 330 (Pietersen 73, Root 73, Prior 57, Swann 56, Chawla 4-69) by 243 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

File photo: Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar both lost their middle stumps to James Anderson (ESPN is not carrying photographs from the tour due to curbs on the media) © PA Photos
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After the first day in Nagpur it was tricky to know which side was on top. Twenty-four hours later there was a clear answer, after another world-class display from James Anderson removed India's brittle top order to leave them tottering on 87 for 4 at the close - a scoreline that included failures for Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar - in reply to England's 330.

Debutant Joe Root, the youngest player in the England side who compiled an outstanding 73, and Graeme Swann, the oldest with a lively half-century, had done the bulk of the scoring for the first part of the day but throughout England's long occupation of the crease - 145 overs - the one cry going up was 'wait for Sehwag', a player rarely dictated to by conditions. In Anderson, though, England have a bowler who is also able to transcend a pitch.

With his second delivery to Sehwag he produced a wicked inswinger which, unusually for a Test opener, beat the outside edge to take out middle stump. It was high-class pace bowling; it is an obvious thing to say that batsmen are most vulnerable when they start, but it takes great skill from a bowler to take advantage in such style. While it was not an immediate end to India's hopes, Sehwag's early departure ensured that England, even when they weren't taking wickets, would have been confident of controlling the game.

The pitch was again the focus of much attention and there was just a hint during the final session that it was starting to play a few more tricks - albeit slow ones. England's spinners, Swann and Monty Panesar, found a little more purchase than their India counterparts but that may just have been because they bowled better.

Swann got one to turn and bounce at Cheteshwar Pujara although replays showed it had come off elbow rather than glove towards short leg. That, though, should take nothing away from the brilliance of Ian Bell's catch, low to his left. Root had started the innings as bat-pad but, after he failed to stay down for a half-chance offered by Pujara, the role was given back to Bell. The position needs to be filled by the best fielder for the role.

Pujara's departure led to a raucous welcome for Tendulkar but he was never comfortable at the crease. Panesar ripped consecutive deliveries past his outside edge before his other nemesis in the England side, Anderson, removed him for the ninth time in Tests in his first over back in the attack. Another tick for Alastair Cook.

Tendulkar, caught on the crease, got an inside edge into the stumps having been caught playing off the back foot when everything to date in the match has told batsmen to get forward. Anderson had become the most successful bowler against Tendulkar in Test cricket. There is one more innings in this series for Tendulkar, then who knows.

Gautam Gambhir, meanwhile, played what is becoming his template innings: a couple of run-out scares, a few well-timed off-side boundaries and then a wasteful end. Anderson did not even need to work him over, instead Gambhir played a half-hearted drive to edge to Matt Prior. One over later Anderson was given a break after a spell of 4-1-3-2. A case when figures don't lie.

Although not as dramatic a session as when India collapsed on the third evening in Mumbai or fourth afternoon in Kolkata it could prove just as telling. It was the situation that England managed to avoid during their innings, fully justifying the grafting approach which continued on the second morning.

Root's highly accomplished stay, which began shortly before tea on the first day and included a 102-run partnership with Prior, had spanned 229 deliveries when he finally gave a return catch to Piyush Chawla in the afternoon session. His half-century had come from 154 balls and even the loss of two quick wickets did not shake his concentration. If anything, it prompted a few more attempts at innovation, with some deft paddles and sweeps that would have made Graham Thorpe proud.

Swann, meanwhile, played a priceless innings to ensure that England did not fritter away their position, which looked possible at 242 for 7, and he dominated as much as anyone else had managed. He twice lofted boundaries over deep midwicket against the spinners before lunch and after the interval he became ever-more aggressive, but selectively so rather than wild hacking.

He deposited Jadeja over long-on for the first six of the match and after Root fell, closing the face as he tried to aim through the leg side, Swann targeted the straight boundaries to reach his first half-century since his career-best 85 against South Africa, at Centurion, in 2009.

England had resumed on 199 for 5 and the familiar pattern of dead-batted blocks was the order of the day. After an early burst from Ishant Sharma it was all spin, which prompted both batsmen to remove their helmets in favour of England caps, Prior's slightly more worn and sweat-stained than the crisp, fresh-out-of-packet version Root was wearing. This really could have been Test cricket out of the 1980s in the subcontinent.

Steadily, though, England did begin to make useful progress. Any width was latched on to by both players as Root cut Chawla through point and Prior repeated the effort against Jadeja and another took him to his fifty. Curiously, both Jadeja and, more so, Chawla, were given a bowl before Pragyan Ojha, but in the end the breakthrough came from the man who now appears the fourth-choice spinner having begun the series tipped to be the major threat.

R Ashwin switched his line to around the wicket and floated a straight delivery past Prior's outside edge. Prior was aghast that he had managed to miss the delivery while Ashwin's celebrations were those of relief as much as joy. India manufactured back-to-back wickets as Dhoni, in one of his more alert and innovative pieces of captaincy in what has been a passive series for him, immediately withdrew Ashwin from the attack in favour of Sharma, who promptly trapped Tim Bresnan lbw with reverse swing.

Sharma, though, could not bowl long spells and the movement he found reinforced the feeling Dhoni would have been better served with another seamer. How he must be wishing he had someone as good as Anderson.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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