By the standards of Ahmedabad, England started much better in the Mumbai Test. The problem, however, is that Ahmedabad was so poor that even this improvement was not enough to be on top. India were 119-5 at one point in the day before a sixth wicket stand of fifty and an unbeaten seventh wicket stand of 97 wrested the initiative back. Cheteshwar Pujara scored another brilliant hundred and is still not out for the series. It really is much like Rahul Dravid batted in England two summers ago and England need to come up with a plan to counter him. But it is the runs of his partners that are far more alarming. On another day those runs might be only an irritation, but this looks like a low-scoring wicket and those runs might be very important. There is bounce and turn and it looks like it will only get worse as the match go on. It is a bit hard to judge as the conditions are so unusual, but it looks like three hundred is a good first innings score. Certainly with England having to bat last they will have wanted a handy first innings lead and the odds of that have dropped sharply and India are fairly comfortably on top after the first day.
England did play a second spinner, Monty Panesar, in place of Tim Bresnan which was not surprising. They did not pick a third seamer, however, choosing instead to stick with Samit Patel. I said in my preview that they should only do that if the pitch was going to turn from the first ball and to be fair it did. Panesar took four wickets in the day and two in the first session, though one was to the predictable poor shot from Virender Sehwag. But it quickly looked like England were a seamer light anyway because Stuart Broad had a terrible day. One of the advantages of playing five bowlers is that one of them can have a terrible day and the attack can adapt around this, but with only four bowlers and only one seamer England started to look badly lacking by the time the day ended. Panesar shared the second new ball and was not effective with it and Anderson bowled well, but the attack just looked tired by the end of the day.
This will increase the pressure on Broad’s place for the third Test. He has been under par for a few months, but today was truly terrible. Anderson kept it tight and looked threatening, but Broad did neither. Not only did he never really look like taking a wicket, he went at five an over as well and really let India take the initiative late in the day. There is still an innings and a half for him to bowl, of course, but one has to think that at this point he is bowling for his place in the side. If Steven Finn is fit for the third Test and England only play two seamers it is hard to see how Broad can play at all. Even if Finn isn’t fit or England do play three seamers Broad still probably has to improve in the rest of the Test to stay in the side. We all know how talented he is both with the bat and the ball and it is hard to drop him because a magic spell might always be just around the corner. But England can’t keep picking him in hope forever and if he can’t bowl better than this then England need to give someone else a chance.
The obvious thing England need tomorrow is an early wicket. Just getting one, especially Pujara, would expose a proper tail-ender. That is no guarantee of anything as we have already seen, but it will give England a chance of keeping the score reasonable. But after that they have to find someone to play an innings to match Pujara. The pressure will be on to get not only a decent score, but actually a big one on a pitch on which it looks tricky to bat. They might take some hope from the fact that it seemed to flatten out in the evening session, but there is every chance that it is merely an effect of the two batsmen playing well. The goal is still just about within reach, but the bowlers need to finish the innings off and then the batsmen need to follow Pujara’s lead and bat sensibly.