Alastair Cook (87 not out, 209b, 10x4, 1x6) frustrated India on an interesting second day’s play of the second Test at Wankhede Stadium on Saturday. Continuing his form, the left-handed opener, led from the front to help England make a spirited reply. Keeping him in company was Kevin Pietersen, who was back at his aggressive best with a 85-ball 62 (9x4). The visitors were 178 for 2 at stumps, still 149 behind India’s total. India put on another 61 runs to their overnight score of 266 for 6 before being all out for 327 in the morning.
England finally saw the back of Cheteshwar Pujara after bowling 790 deliveries since the first Test, but not before the strokeful batsman had made 135 (350b, 12x4). Left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, who took four on the first day, dismissed R Ashwin to return with figures of 5 for 129. This was his 11th five-wicket haul. Off-spinner Graeme Swann (4 for 70) bagged three of the four wickets England got on second day .
When England began their innings, Dhoni made history of sorts by opening the attack with spin from both ends in the form of Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin but Cook and Nick Compton warded off the early danger. Cook used his feet well against the spinners and put away the loose deliveries in style. Using the depth of the crease, the England skipper manoeuvred and glided the ball to the boundaries with exquisite timing.
India had to wait till the 32nd over before separating the opening pair, which had put on 66 runs. It was again Ojha, the tormentor of England at Ahmedabad, who provided the breakthrough. The left-arm spinner in his 10th over found the edge of Compton (29) to be caught in the slips. England were to lose their second wicket in the next over with Ojha slipping in one sharply back to have Jonathan Trott caught plumb in front . But for Ojha’s twin strikes, the rest of the Indian bowlers could not meet any success as Cook and Pietersen dominated the post-tea session.
Ojha, Ashwin and Harbhajan failed to get the same turn and bounce as Panesar got from the wicket. Pietersen, who was troubled by Ojha in the first Test, meant business from the start. He cut, pulled and drove with power in an unbeaten 110-run stand with Cook. He struck his first four boundaries off off-spinner Harbhajan, who bowled poorly in his first spell. Brought in the 25th over, Harbhajan bowled short or overpitched the ball to be cut and driven by the batsmen.
Earlier in the Indian innings, Panesar took the first wicket of the day by dismissing Ashwin. The Indian off-spinner, who batted like an accomplished batsman, was deceived by an armer and was trapped in front for a well-made 114-ball 68 (9x4). But Ashwin and Pujara added 111 for the seventh wicket to put India into a position of strength. This was Panesar’s first five-wicket haul against India in his 43rd Test. His previous best was 4 for 101 at Nottingham in 2007.
The English fielders were ordinary in the slip cordon. If James Anderson was guilty of dropping Pujara , Trott failed to hold a sharp chance offered by Harbhajan .
The unlucky bowler was Panesar. Harbhajan became off-spinner Graeme Swann’s 200th Test victim when he played across to be lbw but not before he hit a six off Panesar and added 35 with Pujara to take India past the 300-run mark.
Swann, who had to play second fiddle to Panesar, captured his third wicket when he had Pujara stumped. The batsman was beaten by a well flighted delivery.
The off-spinner was fortunate to bag his fourth wicket, courtesy umpire Alam Dar when Zaheer Khan was declared caught at short leg with the replays clearing showing the ball going off the batsman’s pads. India were all out 22 minutes before lunch.
Brief scores: India 327 (V Sehwag 30, Cheteshwar Pujara 135, R Ashwin 68, M Panesar 5-129, Swann 4-70) vs England 178-2 (Cook 87 no, Pietersen 62 no, Ojha 2-65).
- Sunday Standard