Archive for Fourth Test

Testing Times

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , on August 22, 2011 by telescoper

Ugh. I seem to have come down with a nasty bug, which started as the sorest of sore throats but has since broadened its ambitions. Not very nice, particularly since I’ve got a lot on my plate this week.

I have a feeling this may be a consequence of sitting in the rain for several hours on Saturday. The trip I mentioned in yesterday’s post was, in fact, to London SE11 in order to catch the Third Day’s play in the Fourth (and final) Test between England and India at The Oval. It’s been a long time since I was last there – about twenty years, in fact – and I’d almost forgotten the contrast between Kennington and St John’s Wood. Cricket at Lord’s is an altogether posher affair than at The Oval, you see. It’s also rather harder to get to from Paddington.

Anyway, I left Cardiff early and managed to meet up with an old pal (who still lives in South London and who got the tickets) in good time to get into the ground for the 11am start. It was quite sunny when proceedings opened with England resuming their first innings on 457-3 and looking to push on quickly. Within half an hour they lost the nightwatchman, James Anderson, quickly followed by Eoin Morgan. Bell and Bopara then put together a fine partnership until Ian Bell’s magnificent innings of 235 came to a close with England on 548-6. Matt Prior chipped in with 18 to take the score to 591-6 at lunch.

I reckoned England would probably want to score around 650 before declaring, but unfortunately the weather intervened and made this calculation irrelevant. It starting raining during the interval and didn’t really clear until about half past four. Play eventually resumed at 16.50, with time added on to make up for the disruption. Meanwhile, England declared – a wise decision, taken to ensure England would have enought time to bowl India out twice – so it was the tourists who came out to bat when play resumed.

In the first over, Sehwag hit two fours off Anderson and  was then out lbw, with India 8-1, which soon became 13-2 as Laxman departed, caught behind the wicket.  Tendulkar then arrived to the customary standing ovation and together with Dravid kept England’s fast bowlers at bay for a time.

But then, with the shadows lengthening, there followed one of the most fascinating hours of Test cricket I’ve ever seen. Graham Swann was introduced into the attack and immediately generated exceptional bounce and turn. He troubled both batsman until, with the score on 68, Tendulkar played a rash sweep shot which caught the top edge and dollied up a simple catch to James Anderson. In came the hapless Raina who looked all at sea. In fact he faced 29 balls without scoring a single run; he fell stumped, both literally and metaphorically. At 93-4 and with about 15 minutes to play, India sent in Sharma to play the role of nightwatchman.

At this stage England were smelling blood and had fielders around the bat like vultures waiting for the kill. I haven’t seen such attacking fields for an offspinner since watching old films of Jim Laker bowling at the Australians. Every ball looked dangerous.  Sharma didn’t survive long under the pressure. When he departed, for 1, that brought in the Indian captain Dhoni to partner the imperturbable Raul Dravid to the close at 103-5. India looked demoralised, England jubilant.

And with that I legged it back to Paddington and thence back home to Cardiff. A long day, good at both ends but with a damp patch in the middle.

POSTSCRIPT. India recovered well to score 300 all out  in their first innings, but that wasn’t enough to avoid the follow-on. They got a better start in the 2nd innings, but once again Tendulkar failed to get his 100th international century – just, this time; he was out for 91. Thereafter India collapsed hideously to 283 all out. England won by an innings and 8 runs, and completed a clean sweep. I wouldn’t have dared predict a 4-0 victory at the start of the series, but as it turned out England completely overwhelmed India.

And that’s the last Test cricket of this fascinating summer….

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