It is safe to say that the Mumbai Test will not be drawn. Of course it never really looked like being drawn after the amount it turned on the first day, but there did seem to be a sniff of a chance when Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen were piling on the runs in the morning. They put on over two hundred together and both scored hundreds to tie the English record for most career hundreds with 22. They both made batting look very easy in the morning and in fact Pietersen started to get very aggressive as the innings went on. By the end he was playing and innings much closer to the sort of swashbuckling one for which he was most famous. This did lead to his downfall, but not until he had already scored 186 and given how he had worked up to that aggression I don’t think there can be any real anger at his dismissal. He has played some brilliant innings, but this was the best of his career. Pietersen actually started scoring so quickly that he almost managed to get to his century before Cook did. Ultimately Cook was the first to get to three figures and kept going for some time thereafter before finally nicking one on 122. It really is a staggering pair of innings he has played in difficult circumstances in the last Test and in this one though and it is amazing to see how well the captaincy seems to suit him. Not only did he tie the English century record, he extended his own worldwide record for most matches with a ton to start a captaincy career with his fourth.
England lost two wickets in the morning and easily the most talked about was the departure of Jonny Bairstow on the stroke of lunch. He had played okay after the departure of Cook, but he played a poor shot to a ball that took a leading edge to Gautam Gambhir who bobbled it before securing it in the end. Bairstow walked off, but the ball had actually hit the grille of Gambhir’s helmet after the first bobble, which under the laws is a dead ball and thus Bairstow should have been given not out. But they went off for lunch and it was only at the end of the interval that the ball was confirmed to have hit the helmet of Gambhir. There was some confusion as to whether Bairstow could come back, but eventually it fell to MS Dhoni who understandably declined. It was in many ways a comedy of errors, though Bairstow will not find the funny side. Bairstow played a poor shot that should have resulted in a wicket almost every time. Gambhir effectively dropped it. The umpires both failed to spot that it had hit the helmet or consider the possibility and Bairstow failed to realise the significance of the ball hitting the helmet and walked off without letting the umpires get involved. The umpires certainly should have done better, but this was not really worse than any of the many other errors they have made. If one wants to be a bit strict, Gambhir also should not have appealed for the catch knowing that it hit his helmet. He probably did not know the law any more than Bairstow did, however, (although like Bairstow, he should know the law) so should not be accused of falsely claiming a catch.
England should have got a bigger lead than they did. That sounds a bit greedy with the score as it is, but the match really should not be close. England let India’s tail add a lot of runs and their own tail added almost exactly nothing. An appallingly bad run out of Matt Prior triggered a collapse of four wickets for just seven runs. The bowlers can be forgiven for that, they immediately went about proving just how hard it was to get in on that pitch, but it still looked quite sloppy from England. They ended up with a handy lead of 86, but a comparison of the scores when the fifth wickets fell in each innings shows a lead of 238 for England. Obviously in any pair of innings there will be some variation in the leads, but to let 156 runs slip at the end of the innings is too careless and is something that needs to be addressed particularly with respect to bowling sides out.
The lead was still enough to put scoreboard pressure on India though and although the certainly did not bat well in the second innings, the bowling of Swann and Panesar was something to behold. They were clearly superior to their Indian counterparts and the amount of help they got showed just how good Cook and Pietersen had batted. India will start tomorrow effectively 31-7 in their second innings. All of the batsmen who really caused problems in the first innings are already out and it is just the unlikely figure of Gambhir holding the innings together at all. India won’t need a big lead though to worry England. There have been 31 individual innings so far in the match, but only five of those have gone past thirty. It does appear to be easier going after that, three of those five are hundreds, but it is very clear that it is hard to get in and if India can make England chase more than a hundred then there will be a few nerves. That is still a big if at this point, but it is imperative that England don’t waste time tomorrow morning.
2 thoughts on “Mumbai Test, day three: India 117-7”
Agree about the whole Bairstow catch – those trying to drum it up as a controversy are ignoring a wonderful day’s cricket and looking to try and create a bit of needle where there is none. I’d suggest a copy of the Laws of the Game for both Gambhir and Bairstow for Christmas. England shouldn’t have asked for him to be re-instated however, and Dhoni was right to decline. Prior’s run out was actually highly annoying – he has a habit of needlessly running himself out in the search for quick runs, either in a situation where England are looking to declare or when batting with the tail (the Lord’s test against South Africa springs to mind – there’s only so many times you can pass it off as ‘selfless’ before it starts being reckless). It’s something that has to rectified as he was looking relatively comfortable, and an extra 20 runs or so would have me sleeping less nervously this evening!
I agree completely about Prior; they actually had a stat on the radio that Prior has been run out in almost ten per cent of all his dismissals which was second highest amongst current players. If England did ask Dhoni to reinstate Bairstow (and I believe that it was actually the umpires who asked, not England, but I am not sure) then it was a bit weird, but nothing too bad. I got the impression that there was a lot of confusion about how the laws applied to the reinstatement and that no one was really sure until a bit later. Either way though Dhoni was indeed quite right to decline.