Thoughts of day three at Nagpur

(Day three chat and comments)

England’s day? Just about, but India will be over the moon at the wonderful hundred partnership between Anil Kumble and Mohammad Kaif. Were it not for that pair, India would have been bowled out for a really paltry total. Indeed, that would have been all the more probable 12-18 months ago, but this Indian side are tougher than they used to be. Tougher they might be, but they remain vulnerable to the swinging delivery and were brilliantly exposed by Matthew Hoggard who, at one stage, had figures of 4 for 6. This Test is alive and kicking and intriguingly poised.

The late strikes by England has put them in charge. The lead of 71 doesn’t sound significant – it’s not a huge lead by any means – but come the fourth innings, it could prove invaluable. India’s number eleven, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, has a batting average of 5.66 and ought not to make more than that. India need every run they can muster.

After the disasterous pre-series preparations afflicting England’s squad, they seem to be gelling as a team – led by Andrew Flintoff. But the big story of the day has been Monty Panesar. I know I effed and blinded about his over-the-wicket nonsense, but it’s a valid point. As soon as he reverted to bowling around the wicket, he grabbed a wicket – and the key one of Kaif who, until then, had batted sensibly if a little too obdurately. And what a pearler of a wicket it was. His first in Test cricket happened earlier in the day – none other than Sachin R Tendulkar! – but this second, late wicket was all the better. My Editor sums it up better than I can:

Perfectly flighted to drag the batsman forward, late dip to leave him stranded, and turn and bounce to detonate the middle and off stumps, the first Turbanation of the series had just been witnessed. Remarkably, however, it was England’s players who were doing the celebrations.

Well bowled, Monty. And well batted Kumbles.

Kumble closing in on Kapil

Anil Kumble

Anil Kumble is just 4 wickets away from breaking Kapil Dev’s record. (incidentally, just noticed at Cricinfo that his full name is Kapildev Ramlal Nikhanj). A marvellous achievment from Kumble, one of my favourite bowlers and who I modelled my action on when I was bowling.

Meanwhile, the 2nd Test is due to start in about 16 hours. As usual India are under pressure(!) to win, especially as they were considered favourites at the start of the series. South Africa’s tactics in the 1st Test were one of defence and obdurity – more interested in saving the Test and not even thinking about winning it. Their lack of confidence with themselves is remarkable – it wasn’t long ago they had Pollock & Donald, an awesome fast-bowling combination, and were the only team who could take Australia to 4/5 days. This new mindset bodes well for England’s trip in a month’s time – how will SA cope with England’s attacking play?

It’ll be interesting to see if India can really attack tomorrow from the outset, and dominate the match from ball one.