2nd Test: England v India, Match Report
20-24 June 1996
Day 1: Eccentric wicketkeeper Russell turns scourge with
the bat to halt India
Such is Harold Bird's capacity for attracting inclement weather, it was no surprise that the first day of the Lord's Test should have been delayed by rain and curtailed by bad light.
In between, the cricket was absorbing: a stern trial for batsmen against a seaming ball until India's worthy progress was halted by an exemplary partnership of 131 by England's left-handed sixth-wicket pair of Graham Thorpe and Jack Russell.
Mohammad Azharuddin was brave to put England in, remembering that they had scored 653 for four declared when last he took that decision at Lord's, but the weather was different yesterday and the gamble worth taking, not least, perhaps, because England, having left out Min Patel, would not have minded bowling first.
Time will tell to what extent their problems were due to a dry pitch, but the chief reasons were demanding fast bowling from Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad and what meteorologists would call a moist westerly airstream. After the start had been delayed for half an hour it kept the pitch fresh enough for anyone above medium pace to enjoy their day.
England, 107 for five in mid-afternoon, had reached a still modest 238 for five from 80 overs by the time that the cricket ceased, at 6.23 on a dank evening. That the Indians were unable to finish the job they had started so well was due not to any change in conditions or reduced venom in the bowling, but to the fact that Thorpe and Russell are natural competitors, at their best when the chips are down.
Thorpe's is the minority share in the partnership so far, with 59 of the runs from the bat to Russell's 69. This was Thorpe's 18th Test fifty and he is well aware that only two have been translated into hundreds. India will be bowling with a new ball this morning, so the most prolific English batsman of the season so far needs to aim high today.
There had not been much running by the batsmen before lunch, taken by England at 39 for one after much playing and missing and a suitably dramatic start to Bird's final Test.
It is Russell, so far, however, who has played the outstanding innings. The MBE with which the Queen honoured him between the first and second Tests might also stand for More Bustle and Enterprise, such was the contrast between his fruitless defensive innings at Edgbaston and the way in which he came out yesterday determined to take the initiative.
More than most this dapper little eccentric from Stroud is prone to periods of fat and lean: in defensive mood he can look a scratchy, quirky player, fidgety enough to have been sired by Umpire Bird himself. So positive and assured was his approach yesterday, however, that it was possible for those not in South Africa in the first few weeks of England's tour of South Africa to understand why John Edrich was advocating that he should go in at No 3.
Russell's heroic rearguard with Mike Atherton in Johannesburg last winter may have saved the game but it also sent him back into his shell, taking his attacking strokes with him. Yesterday, coming in after Nasser Hussain, Graeme Hick and Ronnie Irani had got themselves out in quick succession, he took the pressure off Thorpe, moving well forward into his strokes with utter conviction, his moustache bristling over the top of the ball.
The timing with which he punched the ball into the gaps in a slow outfield, square of the wicket on either side, was crisp and his running between wickets alert and swift.
There had not been much running by the batsmen before lunch, taken by England at 39 for one after much playing and missing and a suitably dramatic start to Bird's final Test. On their own initiative the two sides preceded him on to the pitch so that they could lead the applause, but the cheers of the members in a packed Long Room had already reduced him to tears.
Five balls into the match he was given no option but to lift his finger as Michael Atherton went back to a good-length ball which nipped back at him down the slope.
Irani strode in as if he meant business, only to walk too far across to his second ball, which bowled him leg stump. Thanks to Russell and Thorpe, however, that was England's nadir.
Alec Stewart, barely clinging on with Hussain as Srinath and Prasad zipped the ball either way at varying heights and speeds, looked lucky not to go the same way when he padded up to Srinath, but the batting was looking more comfortable and Stewart had hit Paras Mhambrey past cover for fours off either foot when, eight overs after lunch, he drove all round a good-length ball.
Thorpe started with a risky single to cover, which almost ran his partner out, but Hussain had hit five fours and played with skill and good judgment for just over two hours when he chased a wide off-side ball and edged it to second slip. Vikram Rathore dropped the catch but caught the rebound, one-handed and at full stretch behind the wicketkeeper's back.
This was Sourav Ganguly's sixth ball in Test cricket. Prior to the last home season in India his busy medium pace had earned him 32 wickets at 43 runs each. On the current tour his three scalps had been even more expensive - 63 apiece.
Now, however, he followed his initial triumph by persuading Hick to drive too soon at the bounce of another innocent delivery and flat-bat it to mid off. It would have looked a careless stroke in the Sunday league.
Irani strode in as if he meant business, only to walk too far across to his second ball, which bowled him leg stump. Thanks to Russell and Thorpe, however, that was England's nadir.
The biggest cheer of the day, for a player at least, was the one which greeted Russell's fifty, his eighth for England and, like most of the others, scored at a time when his runs were badly needed.
Day 2: Tendulkar to offer England stern exam
Boiled down to its essence, the second Test match at Lord's and the three-match series between England and India might hang on the resolution of the duel this morning between Sachin Tendulkar and Dominic Cork, who once again led the home attack yesterday evening with the elan of D'Artagnan. Well as Chris Lewis also bowled, the three other musketeers are not quite so formidable.
Higher clouds made batting a less desperate business on the second day and India made a determined start to their first innings after bowling out England at last shortly before tea. At 83 for two in reply to England's 344, with Tendulkar 16 not out, the tourists have a great chance today to make something more from their tour than seemed likely when this match began.
By the same token, the theory that England have become a harder team is about to be tested, not to mention the wisdom of fielding four specialist fast bowlers and no expert spinner.
It has become an even contest, but only because Jack Russell stopped England's rot when he did. A total of almost 350 was not at all what the Indians had been hoping for when the wicketkeeper walked out at 107 for five on Thursday afternoon, but when he was last out some 24 hours later he had scored 124, his second Test hundred.
Russell will treasure to his dying day the moment when he steered a ball from Venkatesh Prasad to backward point for the two runs he needed to reach three figures, 75 minutes into the morning session. He had lost Graham Thorpe, his admirable partner in a stand of 136, in the third over of the day. A ball from Javagal Srinath from the Pavilion End leapt back at him up the slope from just short of a length, struck him on the gloves and was deflected on to the stumps.
Since his 114 in the second innings of his first Test against Australia in 1993, Thorpe has got as far as 70 on 12 occasions, but been out between 70 and 90 on 11 of them. A mixture of poor shots and special balls has given him the reputation of giving it away when set, but yesterday he was blameless.
All depended now upon Russell, and he was not going to let England down. Sometimes walking two or three paces beyond the popping crease as he moved into his front foot strokes, he again timed the ball perfectly. He sets a trap for bowlers by looking so keen to go forward that they are tempted to drop the ball short. Immediately they do his weight goes back to cut or pull with relish.
Russell, for his part, leapt in the air like an excited schoolboy and the Indians graciously and generously joined the applause for a memorable, fighting innings.
Lewis, settling in sensibly after playing more with his pads than his bat in the early stages of a solid innings, was with him when the hundred came, embracing him warmly when it did. Russell, for his part, leapt in the air like an excited schoolboy and the Indians graciously and generously joined the applause for a memorable, fighting innings. The indelible achievement (it will be on the dressing-room board at Lord's as well as in Wisden) meant all the more to Russell for the fact that he had come within a single stroke for six of a hundred at Lord's in his very first Test in 1988.
Sadly, England's innings descended into anti-climax once he had reached his landmark. Russell went back into his shell instead of pressing on and after Lewis had succumbed to an outside edge and a brilliant diving catch by Nayan Mongia in front of first slip, Prasad, much happier bowling from the Pavilion End, made short work of the tail. In 33 balls he took four for seven.
There was no such success for England with the new ball, which moved far less for their bowlers than it had for the Indians on the first morning. Despite a generally well directed attack and fielding which matched the zeal shown at Edgbaston, not much got past the bat. Mongia, nobly opening despite 130 overs of concentration behind the stumps, got resolutely behind the line and saw off the shine, but the key to a respectable start was the calm and cultured manner in which Sourav Ganguly launched his career as a Test batsman.
The 22-year-old left-hander from Calcutta played his strokes with the full face of his bat and with no trace of nerves. Coming in when Vikram Rathore, after a solid start, was caught quite brilliantly, low to his left by Nasser Hussain at third slip in Dominic Cork's sixth over, Ganguly gave his partner, Tendulkar, few alarms after Mongia had been beaten for pace in Chris Lewis's second spell and given out leg before, going back to a good length ball.
Tendulkar flashed once outside his off stump against Cork, but got away with it. Ganguly must twice have been close to being given out lbw, and Mike Atherton will have noticed he once hooked in the air, but England have much work to do today. The ancient clay on the old part of the Lord's square has been produced in a condition as firm and true as the groundstaff could manage, but the chances are the bounce will become more variable by tomorrow. Inevitably, the onus is on Tendulkar to play a big innings. The first hour today might decide the match.
Day 3: Indian bats his way into Lord's history books
It was the highest score by any batsman on his Test debut at Lord's. Saurav Ganguly was the subject of schoolboy jokes and sing-songs when the 23-year-old Indian left-hander first batted against England in the Old Trafford international. But you had to watch Ganguly as he became only the third batsman to make a hundred on his Test debut here.
It was an old problem for England in a new form. Starting from their 1993-94 tour of the West Indies, 12 Test hun- dreds have been made against England by right-handed batsmen, and 11 by left-handers. One particular left-hander called Brian Lara has made five of them; nevertheless it would suggest that England's bowlers are not as practised as they should be in altering their line.
Ganguly's hundred - the second by a left-hander in this game was something the second Test needed, after being so lacking in lustre, as the first Test was for most of its passage. Lord's has been virtually full, as the crowds have come to watch England keep on winning. But the progress made by both batting sides has been so solemn overall that a draw, inconceivable at the outset when the ball so deviated, has become distinctly possible.
Only the first session of play was of the highest Test match quality, before yesterday. When Jagaval Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad bowled, England were well-matched. They can compare, for skill as well as height, with Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh in their late careers.
In 1986, when Graham Gooch made a hundred against New Zealand at Lord's, he observed a vast contrast between Richard Hadlee's bowling at one end and that of the remaining Kiwis at the other: like Ilford 3rd XI, he called it. There has been almost the same gulf in this series, between India's opening bowlers and the rest, given Kumble's loss of length and direction.
It was the first time Thorpe has throttled back in a Test match and ``sat'' on the bowling
Well though he may improve, Paras Mhambrey has to be classified as the worst third seamer that any Test country currently has. Once Srinath and Prasad departed from the attack, the standard lurched down and down towards minor county level, and the tautness went out of the match. Then England's batting also plummeted briefly to the same sub-standard, as the middle order gave their first innings wickets away, before Graham Thorpe and Russell stood their ground.
It was the first time Thorpe has throttled back in a Test match and ``sat'' on the bowling: otherwise he has been bristlingly assertive so long as he has been in. The hundred still did not arrive; but it should not worry him that he has made no more Test hundreds than Russell. Thorpe is still England's most valuable batsman for the number of initiatives that he takes.
By the resumption yesterday morning England were in an analagous position to that in the Lord's Test of 1994. They had defeated New Zealand as handsomely in the first Test of that summer as they did India this time round. But in the second Test against New Zealand at Lord's England let their grip slip away: they had New Zealand, batting first, at 138 for four, but the tourists did not keep on tottering as expected, recovering to 476 and ending England's mini-revival.
Could they kick India when they were down, or would England relax? It was in England's favour that the day was cloudy, not the sunshine which had been forecast. But to set against that advantage, the ball refused to move around as it had done for the Indian bowlers. The whole ground groaned when Sachin Tendulkar, with most uncharacteristic sloppiness, surely born of too much one-day cricket, went for a dab in the very first over and was dropped at second slip by Graeme Hick to his weaker side, his left. Tendulkar cannot be given too many let-offs when he has scored 16.
A thrashing square-cut from Tendulkar was Lewis's unjust reward. Another half-checked drive past the bowler, presenting the bat's new label for his inspection, brought Tendulkar another four, as did a steer to third man with only half the bat's face. Yes, expensive, so that missed chance looked to be. Next ball, though, Lewis produced a ball fit to dethrone a king, going up the slope to hit the top of Tendulkar's offstump. From the way the seam wobbled in its flight on slow-motion replays, the ball appeared to move away by accident rather than by outswinging design. But Lewis had earned it for his sustained hostility, first shown in the Auckland Test of 1992 under Gooch's persuasion to be a strike bowler, and subsequently shelved to prolong his career expectancy.
When Graeme Hick eventually had a couple of overs, Ganguly showed what he thought of spin by taking a boundary in each of them
The only other wicket to fall in the morning was, again, not Ganguly as expected, but that of Azharuddin. You could not have said that iron glinted out of the depths of the Indian captain's soul, but he tried to get well forward, and to play straighter, in aid of his ailing team's cause. Atherton hereabouts rang his changes well, posting a ``gate'' of two square legs for Azharuddin. The fielding was competent, but without the polish which Knight's presence gave it in the first Test.
In consequence England's bowlers kept India down to the same solemn rate of around 2.5 runs per over that England's batsmen had maintained. It had to be chipping-away, attritional cricket from their four specialist seamers and Ron- nie Irani. When Graeme Hick eventually had a couple of overs, Ganguly showed what he thought of spin by taking a boundary in each of them, to either side of point. Azharuddin went to a flowery wave at a wide ball slanted across him. Ajay Jadeja made a quiet next companion at the crease, until he was bowled off an inside edge, his front foot nowhere. As no senior partner would do it, Ganguly himself had to break out. The best feature of his temperament was his patience when the bad balls and runs would not present themselves. Upon reaching 50, he had to halt there for half-an-hour until he made a cut for three. Then a long wait for another single, and another, for the patience to be rewarded when a couple of fours off Cork's over just be- fore lunch took him out of the doldrums that were his fifties.
Rahul Dravid also settled into his maiden Test match with admirable self-assurance: India cannot get these young learners into their side soon enough. After 340 minutes Ganguly went to his hundred with a cover-driven four off Cork so sweetly timed that he did not bother to watch the ball after it had beaten the in-field.
Once past his hundred Ganguly allowed himself some freedom in his cover-drive, hooked Lewis resoundingly, and found the field at last dispersed sufficiently for an easy single or two.
As the light closed in India had come within 50 runs of England's total when Ganguly hit around a full- length ball from Mullally and was bowled for 131.
Day 4: India take advantage of short measures
India have excelled, as touring sides invariably do, in the Lord's Test, but the England team would be fooling themselves if they believed that it would all have been different if they had won the toss and fielded first. They might have bowled India out cheaply, but only if their length and direction had been considerably better than it was on Saturday.
Surprised by the sheer quality of a distinguished first Test innings of 131 by Saurav Ganguly, frustrated by Rahul Dravid's equal calm and technical excellence, they paid dearly for their obsession with the short-pitched ball and by the time that India had finally been bowled out at 2.45 on the fourth afternoon yesterday, they had scored 429, a lead of 85.
By then a draw seemed assured, but Javagal Srinath tested Mike Atherton sorely before Anil Kumble dismissed him when England were still 36 runs behind and it needed a sturdy partnership to hold the fort. Alec Stewart's wider and more open stance, not to mention his experience and competitive nature, stood him in good stead as he and Nasser Hussain batted calmly and competently for an hour and a half on a sunny evening.
The lead was 24 when Hussain was out to Srinath in an extraordinary way. Turning his back and spinning round to avoid a short one, the ball hit the back of his bat and lobbed to cover. Stewart is 66 not out, the lead 28 with eight wickets in hand, and the brown pitch, though it is dry and scarred, is slow.
Chris Cowdrey, the one-time England captain who now makes the cricketing odds for bookmakers, had been predicting a draw from the start of Saturday's play. The longer India batted the more certain it became, not least because the rate of their progress was insufficient to turn the tables and put England under serious pressure. After a succession of epic Lord's Tests, this one has been prosaic.
The original England selection, with five seamers and no spinner, is unlikely to have made any difference to the result, but it certainly reduced the entertainment value and the options open to the England captain.
Atherton often claims to feel more comfortable with an accurate spin bowler in his side, but he does not always insist on having one. With Ronnie Irani at No 6, leaving out Min Patel made no sense at all. A slow left-armer would have changed the pace, made the batsmen play more and been no more expensive for England.
If David Lloyd, the England coach, has a fault as a tactician it is a belief that top-class players can be blasted out by shortpitched bowling
It was more the tactics than the bowlers who were at fault, perhaps, but Dominic Cork bowled with far less menace on Saturday and Peter Martin did not consistently find the right length. Chris Lewis and Alan Mullally were too short too often.
Lewis owed his early return to the Test side mainly to his pace. Mullally's selection ahead of other left-arm bowlers who swing the ball more was due to the fact that he is marginally the quickest of them, that he gets bounce, and that he can bowl from round the wicket as well as over it. But on a pitch like this there is no substitute for bowling straight and to the right length.
If David Lloyd, the England coach, has a fault as a tactician it is a belief that top-class players can be blasted out by shortpitched bowling. On rare occasions, perhaps they can, but digging the ball in short gives it no chance to swing: there was sufficient movement through the air and off the pitch here for Jack Russell to let through 11 byes and there were 10 wides among 55 extras.
Fewer than half the balls bowled on Saturday needed playing, one reason why it seemed a long and rather dull day until the penalties started going in at Wembley. Television sets in the stands stuck resolutely to the cricket but the batsmen's concentration was tested by cheers emanating from hospitality boxes. Human nature will have its way.
Not that the din deflected India's steady purpose. Despite dropping Sachin Tendulkar off Lewis, England had got the maestro out early enough - bowled by a beauty which pitched on off stump from the Pavilion End and hit it - to hope for victory, especially when Mohammad Azharuddin was caught behind, cutting loosely, and Ajay Jadeja was bowled, on-driving at the honest Irani.
Far from pressing home the advantage, England were stopped and turned back by two determined young men playing in their first Test. Ganguly batted serenely for 7.25 hours in all before Mullally finally yorked him in the 27th over with the second new ball. Every ball had been played on its merits.
Ganguly's century in his first Test innings had been only the third by a man playing his first Test at Lord's
The technique of Dravid, his partner in a sixth- wicket stand of 94, was equally well organised and his mind just as composed and until he was ninth out for 95, after lunch yesterday, a unique double was just round the corner.
Ganguly's century in his first Test innings had been only the third by a man playing his first Test at Lord's and never have two men playing their first game for any country scored hundreds in the same innings. Ganguly was the seventh Indian (Dravid would have been the eighth) to reach three figures in his first innings: three others have managed it in the second innings of their first game.
It would not be true to say that Ganguly made quite the same impression as Azharuddin did when making centuries in his first three matches against David Gower's England touring side, if only because, unlike Azhar, he was so orthodox.
This was the innings not of a genius but of an extremely sound batsman with a wonderfully calm temperament who should provide both style and ballast to India's batting for some years.
It is a long time since Calcutta has provided a star batsman for India. He was born there to a relatively wealthy commercial family either 22 or 23 years ago, according to which record book you believe. He played with great maturity, hitting elegantly through the covers, resisting various attempts to exploit an imagined weakness on the leg stump and ducking calmly under the liberal does of short balls.
Dravid, too, simply waited for the bad ball and left or defended against the remainder. Kumble stayed with him for nearly two hours before he was leg before to Martin's first ball yesterday, which straightened just enough, but Srinath and Paras Mhambrey both made useful contributions before Lewis found Dravid's outside edge at last.
Day 5: England hold the line in face of India revival
The long and short of the Lord's Test is that England were outplayed, but not in the end defeated, by an Indian team containing six players who had never played in a Test before the season started. England played some poor shots in the first innings and bowled too short but it is a virtue to play below your best in a Test and not lose it.
Thanks mainly to a good innings on Sunday evening by Alec Stewart, another admirally staunch one yesterday by Jack Russell and a 139-minute effort by Ronnie Irani, the expected draw was duly achieved, albeit at the expense of a #14,300 fine for slow over-rate.
India, however, retained the initiative that they had held since winning the toss last Thursday and it was not until teatime on the fifth day that England could be certain that they had saved the game. Even then they lost Russell, after 3.25 hours in his favourite position, with his back to the wall, but Chris Lewis's newly-found self-assurance persuaded Mohammad Azharuddin to call off the chase at 5.25pm, with 14 overs still remaining.
Gloucestershire's Russell was made Cornhill's man of the match, having batted for 9hr 27min for his 162 runs in the match. Coming in just before lunch when England were a mere 85 runs ahead with only four wickets left, he gave yet another performance in the art of watching the ball and playing it late. Like a stoat, his greatest assets are sharp eyes and a nimble body.
India have retained an interest in the short series, which will end at Nottingham in the game starting on Thursday week, and reversed previous form on the tour. Sourav Ganguly, whose cover-driven four to reach his hundred has earned him a jeroboam for providing the champagne moment, added to his maiden Test hundred the honour yesterday of claiming the last lbw ever given in Test cricket by Dickie Bird.
Stewart's success with the bat - supported by an excellent fielding performance - gives the selectors at least one tricky decision for Saturday night's selection meeting in Manchester.
Ganguly's performance personified his team's admirable revival in this game. A new side is emerging, with good reason to be optimistic about the future so long as the cutting edge - Srinath, Prasad and Kumble - is not overworked. England's revival, by contrast, has stuttered. They showed character in battling through some anx- ious hours yesterday, but the balance of the bowling attack for this game was non-existent and the dressing-room orders to the fast bowlers to dig the ball in short frequently was mistaken.
Stewart's success with the bat - supported by an excellent fielding performance - gives the selectors at least one tricky decision for Saturday night's selection meeting in Manchester. Nick Knight hopes to be fit to state his case with runs in Warwickshire's match against Middlesex at Lord's later this week.
There will, whatever may be said in defence of the selection here, surely be no repetition of the five-man seam attack. Apart from anything else, it cost the players 45 per cent of their match fees, #1,300 per man, the fine imposed by the referee, Cammie Smith, for an over-rate which was seven short of the required minimum.
The omission of Min Patel, although Mike Atherton was no doubt right in his opinion that it would have made no difference to the result, was all the odder for the captain's frank admission that he would have batted first in any case if he had won the toss. ``We thought the ball would move around in the first session and then conditions would ease. Obviously it did a lot more than we thought it would on the first day.''
David Lloyd, overstating the case in his passion for the cause, described England's performance yesterday and in the field as ``brilliant''. He thought India would be ``pig-sick'' not to have won. He added: ``The way we stuck to our task in the field on a flat pitch pleased me no end. Heads could have dropped after Tendulkar was dropped off Chris Lewis but I didn't see it happen.''
With Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad firing away with well directed venom from the Pavilion End and Anil Kumble probing tirelessly with his leg-breaks from the other, England were immensely grateful to Peter Martin in the morning session yesterday for his steadfast 124-minute innings as nightwatchman.
Thorpe had batted for 13 overs when Kumble, bowling round the wicket into the rough, got a ball to lift to his glove and deflect to short-leg, where Vikram Rathore leapt left for a spectacular catch.
He was out just before lunch, having seen three senior partners come and go before a crowd of little more than 1,500. It grew perhaps fourfold as the sun came out and word spread that the Indian bowlers were making rapid progress. Stewart had added only one to his overnight 65 when Srinath bowled him off his inside edge and front pad with a ball which came back sharply down the slope.
Some superb overs followed from Srinath, varying his pace from fast-medium to genuinely quick, getting past the outside edges of both Martin and Graham Thorpe and hitting the left-hander on the glove with a lifter of the kind that had accounted for him in the first place. Thorpe had batted for 13 overs when Kumble, bowling round the wicket into the rough, got a ball to lift to his glove and deflect to short-leg, where Vikram Rathore leapt left for a spectacular catch.
Another spitting delivery, this time by Prasad to Graeme Hick, deepened the crisis nine overs later, and Martin's edge to second slip 15 minutes before lunch, set up an exciting start to the afternoon. It also, of course, gave Russell and Irani a chance to show their character. The jury will be out for a while yet on Irani's quality as a potential Test all-rounder but this will be a more cheerful and positive England side if he continues to develop.
Wisely, Lloyd and Atherton had encouraged him to play his natural game and he duly succeeded in pushing the close field back a little with several firm strokes, interspersed though they were with some fortuitous ones. Missed off a hard chance at second slip when eight, he had eventually made 41 when, with 34 overs left, he got a bottom edge as he drove at the under-used Paras Mhambrey.
With Russell, Irani had hung on for 31 overs, the majority of them against a new ball, taken at 190 for six, which seemed to hinder the Indians than to help them.
Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at email@example.com