Rana Malook reviews another gripping day in Ahmedabad.
England began the second day with hope of continuing their recovery following Sehwag's innings the previous day. Early wickets were what the doctor ordered overnight, but they never arrived.
Broad and Swann took the new-ish ball and it was a frustrating affair. Both had LBW shouts turned down, and whilst they felt hard done by, the umpires got the decisions right. Pujara continued where he left off with minimal fuss, reaching his second test hundred by charging Swann, thumping a front foot drive down the ground.
His celebration was just as composed as his innings. The comparisons with Dravid are perhaps a little premature and flattering but the fact that they are being made is testament to how well he's played.
And so England laboured on. Broad did his best Malfoy impressions, toys flew at every given opportunity and bottom lips got bit. In increasingly hot conditions frustrations boiled over with some more silly appeals.
Yuvraj on the other hand remained ice cool playing with more fluency than the night before. A six off Swann in only the 5th over of the day was followed by another boundary which fell just short of the rope. The muted celebration after reaching a half century suggested Yuvraj was focused on getting that comeback century, a man possessed.
Cook looked nervously on as his best bowler was taken for 15 runs that early in the morning. A more telling decision from the England captain was waiting 68 overs before giving Bresnan another bowl. Perhaps he also wanted Monty over Bresnan in the side. He'll have to be more vociferous in putting his case forward in the next selection meeting.
Bresnan was given a three over spell when he did eventually come back, an over less than the part time spin of KP. India moved to lunch with the score on 410-4. England were desperate for a wicket, a mistake from the batsman looking increasingly like the only viable source.
After lunch Yuvraj (on 74) duly obliged, hitting a full toss from Patel to Swann at long on. He froze at the crease for a few moments motionless in disbelief, it was a shock to the system, not in the script but he had to go and India were 413-5.
It was poor cricket all-round but the breakthrough came at a crucial time for England, when Yuvraj was looking to accelerate. A lethargic England huddle then slowly got together with players dribbling in from across the field as an understandably upbeat Dhoni arrived at the wicket. Pujara meanwhile was having a dream test match as he moved to 150, justifying his Dravid comparisons more with every milestone.
Swann continued to search for his five wicket haul with a tireless display. Persistence paid off for the England spinner eventually albeit under fortunate circumstances. Dhoni's attempt at a sweep shot from a ball that pitched on middle and was spinning way down legside only resulted in him freakishly changing the trajectory of the ball back onto his leg stump. India were 444-6.
Ashwin and Pujara then patiently put on a 50 run partnership without incident as England simply ran out of ideas. By the time tea arrived England looked dejected and India rampant on 502-6 with the invincible Pujara on 196 not out and Ashwin (pictured) adding a handy 21. Had Pujara not been so close to his double century Dhoni may well have declared at this stage. As it was, he opted to delay, allowing for the possibility of young Pujara reaching his first double test century.
Pujara indeed achieved the feat shortly after tea to a standing ovation from the crowd and his team mates. It was the first time there was an outpouring of emotion from the youngster.
He had every reason to celebrate, it was a magnificent innings. India then lost a couple of wickets in quick succession, losing Ashwin to KP and Zaheer to Anderson before Dhoni declared with India amassing a mammoth total of 521-8 from 160 grueling overs for England. It meant the tourists were left with a tricky period of 18 overs to survive.
Swann was the pick of the England bowlers with figures of 5-144 from his marathon 51 overs. Despite Swann's brilliant effort England's focus must've been on not losing any wickets before the end of play. And so ensued the most gripping and nail biting hour of play of the test thus far.
India as predicted attacked the England openers with spin straight away. Zaheer Khan took the new ball with Ashwin but only bowled 5 overs, Dhoni bringing Ojha on swiftly.
Cook got into his stride and hit a couple of boundaries off Ashwin's first over to settle his early nerves. Compton however looked uncomfortable, nervously pushing forward at Ashwin a few times. As uncomfortable a spectacle as it was for England fans, England openers dug in for 13 overs and with only five to go looked to have achieved what they set out to. That's when a disastrous struck with a passage of play which left them reeling.
Firstly Compton had hesitantly crawled to his 9 runs from 53 deliveries before Ashwin bowled him comprehensively. The debutant failed to keep out a well flighted delivery which spun sharply through the gate. England then sent in Anderson as night watchman who lasted only six balls.
Ojha was the culprit this time. His flighted delivery had Anderson lunging forward, resulting in a sharp inside edged bat/pad catch brilliantly taken by Gambhir at short leg. At 29-2 with a noisy crowd and Indian spinners rampant Trott walked out to the middle. Twitter timelines were being blown to pieces by cricket tweets as England fans held their breath for the last three overs of play.
The test match had suddenly burst into life. Could Jonathan Trott hold his nerve and see out the last 10 minutes? Unfortunately for England fans the answer was no. Trott departed after facing only four balls for a duck to leave England in a desperate situation with 30-3. Ashwin was England's tormentor once more deceiving Trott in flight yielding another inside edged chance to short leg. Pietersen easily and confidently batted out a tricky penultimate over from Yuvraj, as England finished on 41-3, but the damage had been done.
Like a Spielberg movie this test match had been meandering along at a pedestrian pace with some intricate plot lines coming together in perfect harmony for a big finale.
In Jaws we had to wait ages to actually see the Shark, much like the Indian spinners who were lurking in the dressing room as the batsmen piled on the runs. Emerge they certainly did with a big splash gulping down three victims in quick succession.
The question for tomorrow is, can KP and Cook tame the beast much like Brody and Quint in Jaws? On a flat pitch both are capable of scoring big hundreds, and boy do England need them to here. It should be another unmissable day of test cricket tomorrow, that much is guaranteed.
image: © vijay_chennupati