3rd Test: England v India, Match Report
Christopher Martin-Jenkins - 4-9 July 1996
Day 1: Record stand by Indian pair blunts England attack
England bowled very tidily at Trent Bridge yesterday and their ground fielding was sharp as a whetted knife - which only goes to show what a beautiful pitch for batting it was and how masterfully Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly played in the unbroken third-wicket partnership of 254 which occupied all but the first 35 minutes of the first day of the third Test. It is the highest stand by any Indian pair in England.
They came together in the 10th over at 33 for two, a score wholly unreflective of India's good fortune in winning the toss on a grey and windy morning. By lunch, a mere 12 overs later, they had raised the total to 71, by tea to 179 and by the close to 287 for two.
A draw was odds-on favourite before a ball was bowled yesterday and though Chris Lewis, making an impressive and industrious return to the ground where he had never settled as a county player for Nottinghamshire, made the new ball bounce awkwardly at times, the cool command which Ganguly assumed from the moment that he came in confirmed the hypothesis.
The pitch is flat as a cow pat, the sort on which good balls go for four, especially when players of the class of Ganguly and Tendulkar are well set. It was eventually the senior partner (though both are aged only 23) who dictated the pace of scoring but it was Ganguly who settled first. As at Lord's he batted without a sign either of nerves or of technical impurity.
A searing cut by Tendulkar off Lewis to Mike Atherton in the gully before he had scored would have stuck perhaps six times out of 10
Hitting the ball with the full face of a beautifully straight bat Ganguly, graceful as a young deer, had a 20-run, six-over start on Tendulkar, but his second successive Test hundred did not come until an hour after tea, by which time the little dictator had already reached his 10th Test hundred, with 15 fours. Even Tendulkar, however, did not manage hundreds in his first two Test innings as Ganguly now has, a feat achieved only once before, by Alvin Kallicharran for the West Indies against New Zealand in the Caribbean in 1971-72.
Inevitably they made the odd error yesterday. A searing cut by Tendulkar off Lewis to Mike Atherton in the gully before he had scored would have stuck perhaps six times out of 10. When he was 68, 10 overs before tea, Tendulkar might also have been caught behind by Jack Russell, aiming a leg glance at Min Patel. The replay seemed to show the faintest of touches, but too faint for the umpire to be sure.
Umpire K T Francis of Sri Lanka was standing in a Test in England for the first time, and his partner, George Sharp, is yet another newcomer in a series notable for the number of debutants. It was an ideal pitch for umpires hoping for a relatively straightforward match, but there are two ways to take wickets, through the air or off the pitch, and meteorologically this was not so bad a day for bowling; a little too blustery perhaps, but at least allowing some wobble on the ball.
It was cool all day and mainly grey, 28 minutes being lost to rain immediately after Vikram Rathore had fended a lifting ball from Dominic Cork to Russell down the leg side. The ball sometimes swung, particularly for Alan Mullally and Lewis, who pitched the ball up more consistently than they had at Lord's, and it drifted a bit for the spinners, Patel and Graeme Hick. Patel, the specialist, bowled a little too flat given conditions in which only flight and curve could deceive good players, but two straight sixes by Ganguly hardly encouraged him.
Ian Salisbury can congratulate himself, perhaps, on escaping this match. There will be some turn in time for the Indian spinners when the bowlers' footmarks become rough, but there was truly no margin for error yesterday.
Barring serious accidents this morning India should make 500, and England will be the team facing difficult questions.
Lewis may have been the most dangerous bowler, but his only success came in the 10th over while the new ball was still hard. Nayan Mongia drove at a length ball just outside his off stump and edged it to second slip, where Hick sparred at a chance which came quickly and deflected it neatly into Russell's gloves. Russell's work was at its neatest and sharpest: even bounce is as much a benison for wicketkeepers as it is for batsmen.
Mark Ealham had a good day, too, having taken over as the allrounder from the unlucky Ronnie Irani. He varied his pace cleverly and bowled very straight, earning due respect and suggesting that he could play an effective role as a third seamer in more helpful conditions. But Cork was disappointing, partly because he damaged a toe inside a new pair of boots. India's supremacy became certain during his spell in mid-afternoon, when Tendulkar cut and forced him for backfoot fours in the 30th over, then drove him past mid-on, mid-off and cover in the 34th.
This was glorious batting by a wonderful player and it was not until the second new ball was taken, at the first opportunity - that is, 80 overs - that Tendulkar, once he had got over his uncertain start in the morning, made another mistake. Driving at Cork, he edged the ball to second slip where Hick swallowed the catch only to see umpire Francis's arm outstretched to signify a no-ball.
It was an unlucky day for England from the moment that Mohammad Azharuddin won the toss, but India have capitalised admirably. They have two spinners to exploit the eventual rough, and since England have not yet naturalised Brian Lara, only India can win this game if it is not to be drawn.
Barring serious accidents this morning they should make 500, after which England will be the team facing the difficult questions. India may well regret, indeed, playing seven batsmen and only four specialist bowlers.
Day 3: Atherton in control as England advance
Mike Atherton was duly confirmed as England's captain against Pakistan for the second series of the summer yesterday after scoring the third highest of his 10 hundreds for England at Trent Bridge on Saturday.
It was by some distance the luckiest and least fluent of his Test centuries but it enabled his side to avoid the follow-on off the last ball of the day and, if he and Nasser Hussain can step up the rate of a second-wicket partnership already worth 192, the possibility of turning the tables on India still exists.
Hussain may not be able to continue his innings today. He was struck on the glove late yesterday afternoon and had a precautionary X-ray which revealed a hairline crack of his right index-finger.
The 28-year-old Essex batsman will have an early-morning net at Trent Bridge today to see if he is fit enough to continue.
However, with two days left a second successive draw almost certainly looms but thanks to Atherton's tenacity and Hussain's accomplished second century of the series, the third Test match has intriguing possibilities yet.
On an almost perfect pitch for batting that command might, too, enable Mark Ealham to bat without inhibition, a rarity in a first Test, and it might do the player and the team a service if he were to be given a licence to attack the bowling, within reason, when his turn comes.
Hussain was fortunate, also, to come in when Venkatesh Prasad and, in particular, the outstanding Javagal Srinath, had tired.
It is the greatest pity the Indians are about to go home just when they have found their feet. The irony is that they have gained more than England from a series which they will surely lose. Of England's most pressing needs before the series started at Edgbaston, only the problem of who was going to bat at No 3 against Australia next summer has now been solved.
This, of course, is a very considerable advance. The confidence with which Hussain batted from the moment that he took over from Alec Stewart on Saturday was heartening. He timed the ball out of the middle of the bat at once, making 21 from his first 15 balls and proceeding at a leisurely but never sluggish rate to a hundred marred only when George Sharp reprieved him for what the Indians believed was an edge to the wicketkeeper, Nayan Mongia, as he cut at an off-break from Sachin Tendulkar when he was 74. Sharp himself, indeed, has confirmed the error to Mark Nicholas, which is refreshingly honest.
Hussain was fortunate, also, to come in when Venkatesh Prasad and, in particular, the outstanding Javagal Srinath, had tired. On this hard, true surface, Venkat Raju's delicate, beguiling slow left-armers and Anil Kumble's more strident legbreaks, offered little threat to so confident a player of spin. Hussain and Atherton pierced the covers fre- quently when offered the chance to drive and Hussain again used the pace of Kumble to score freely behind square. After his battle to establish himself against the new ball when it was darting around so dangerously at Edgbaston, this was Hussain's reward.
It is a long time since England had the rub of the green in a Test series, especially at home, but this was the second time in this series that Atherton has looked plumb lbw and reprieved.
Stewart was out soon after lunch for a second successive Test 50, determinedly but unconvincingly acquired. The ball which got him seemed, in fact, to go through a wide gate without touching anything, but so much had beaten his bat earlier, as he moved across his stumps well before the ball was getting to him, that it was no more than justice for Srinath. For character and experience one might want Stewart opening with Atherton against Pakistan, but such is his technical muddle that Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis could only rejoice at the prospect.
By the end of the day, on the other hand, Atherton looked as though he might rediscover the ability to move late, which will be crucial against bowlers who rely more on swing than on hitting the seam like Srinath and Prasad. Atherton, who had been missed in the slips before he scored on Friday, gave another fingertip chance off a bouncer when 34, soon after walking in front of his stumps against Srinath and somehow being given not out by K .T. Francis.
It is a long time since England had the rub of the green in a Test series, especially at home, but this was the second time in this series that Atherton has looked plumb lbw and reprieved.
They used to think that the English umpires bent over backwards to be fair to the opposition. To this extent the introduction of a member of the international panel has helped the home team. The National Grid panel has solved more problems than it has created, but because it is made up of a minimum of two from each Test-playing country it includes umpires who melt in the glare of a Test match.
There are no plans to change the system when the ICC meets this week. Nor, unfortunately, is there any intention to impose a limit on the number of Test matches and internationals, which are in danger of proliferating to the point of overkill. It may not be the most obvious time to say it, especially to those who do not understand that a drawn game may have virtue, but all Test series should consist of five matches. Thereby themes are allowed to develop, players to blossom or perish over a fair period, and the best team invariably to emerge on top.
Three games, alas, are more likely to become the norm, even in England, as our confused and overworked administrators try to keep on top of commercial trends without being swept away by them in a world wherein the number of Test countries grew from six to nine in 11 years.
Day 4: Ealham may be the answer to the search for an all rounder
India bowled too well and England batted too unambitiously, culpably so at times, for the fourth day of the third Test to be anything other than a dull stalemate. It was, on the face of it, an apt day for Jagmohan Dalmiya, secretary of the Indian Cricket Board and would-be chairman of the International Cricket Council, to float the idea of a limit of 120 overs on the first innings of Test matches.
It will not float for long without sinking because, happily, it is not often that a very flat pitch coincides with an insecure team being one-up in the last match of a series. This, and the fact that Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad once again bowled formidably well in the morning session, was the problem here.
England finally hauled themselves past India's 521 at 5.30pm, with 6.5 hours of play in the match remaining, having taken 82 overs to add 200 to Saturday's total. By the close, with two effective wickets left - Nasser Hussain will not bat again in the match - they were 29 runs ahead. It was dull fare, especially while Graeme Hick was playing anything but his natural game.
It is, however, an ill wind which blows no one good. The adamantine surface on which Mark Ealham returned the modest analysis of 29-9-90-2 in his first Test match was also the one on which yesterday he scored 51 in a maiden innings of real promise. Having found their No 3 batsman at last, England may just possibly have discovered in this match their long-sought all-rounder: not a man to unearth trees, but certainly one who might grow into the job.
The direct comparison here yesterday with Chris Lewis and Dominic Cork, two who might have grown into the role, was favourable to Ealham, although Lewis contributed a bright 21 and Cork was beginning to stroke the ball with some style when the curtain came down on a sunny evening. Ealham's was not in any way a spectacular innings, such as Ronnie Irani, for example, might have played, but it was as solid as the man and occupied 2.5 hours during which England went from 396 for three to 497 for seven.
The evidence of his improvement as a batsman was the fact that he was beaten less than his partners throughout, especially by Srinath, who dismissed him at last only with a ball which stopped in the rough outside off-stump and induced an unlucky push to cover. It was a rare case of the bowlers getting any help from this pitch, yet there can scarcely have been a total of 500-plus in the history of cricket which has been achieved despite so much playing and missing. Ealham and Graham Thorpe were positive and untroubled but never dominant yesterday: the rest, to a greater or lesser degree, scrapped and struggled like their captain.
Despite the ancient square, a little bit too good for batting, the Indian fast bowlers got a remarkable amount of movement through sheer skill and the help of an overcast sky. Srinath and Prasad were kept going almost throughout the morning by the acting captain, Sachin Tendulkar, and Sourav Ganguly, on what, according to him, was his 23rd birthday, also swung the ball and nipped it about a bit, too.
Mike Atherton batted in the first 15 minutes as though he had a more adventurous scoring rate in mind, but he was forced on to the defensive and had made only 15 more in almost an hour when Prasad got a ball to leave him late, Sanjay Manjrekar holding the edge at third slip. Thorpe played well and positively, but he also did his fair share of playing at thin air on his way to 45 at lunch.
An inswinger into Thorpe's front pad left the afternoon stage to Hick, who had hit his second ball past cover for four but thereafter scratched so uncomfortably that when he miscued a leg-side hit against Venkatapathy Raju's left-arm spin, he had spent 2hr 20min over 20 runs. Ealham, by contrast, hitting firmly through the covers or midwicket and, other than one near-fatal misreading of Raju's length, selecting his strokes correctly, made steady progress towards his fifty, despite losing Jack Russell to an outside edge and Lewis, eight overs after tea, going back to Anil Kumble's topspinner.
With his naturally disarming charm, the England coach, David Lloyd, admitted that it had been tedious but said that England had fallen only 50 runs short of their target of 600 by the close.
``Our idea had been to bat until Tuesday lunchtime. Losing Hussain was bad luck. With two lads on a hundred not out it would have been easier to dictate. I wish we had more wickets to play with now but they've got one lad with his arm in a sling and another hopping around in slippers.''
Neither Mohammad Azharuddin, hit on his left instep in the field on Saturday, or Vikram Rathore, who dislocated his shoulder when throwing in from the boundary yesterday, will bat unless they have to.
Hussain has three weeks to recover from his clean break on the knuckle of his right index finger before the first Test against Pakistan.
Day 5: England finish the first series with a flourish
It TOOK a handsome piece of batting by Sachin Tendulkar, who hit 11 fours and a six, a dogged effort by Nayan Mongia and another polished contribution from Sourav Ganguly to make absolutely sure that India would draw the third Test here. England, however, not only won the series one-nil but ended it on an upbeat note by achieving the considerable distinction of bowling India out a second time in a mere 69 overs - 98 fewer than it had taken them on the first two days.
A crowd of about 1,000 were rewarded for their optimism by the fall of 11 wickets on the fifth day after a mere 17 had gone down on the first four. Thanks to a spirited performance by England in the field and the rare quality of Tendulkar's strokeplay it was by no means the drab day's cricket that many had feared.
It was important for England, with the Pakistan challenge so imminent, to end the series with a bit of a flourish. Mark Ealham proved to have something of a golden arm in picking up four cheap wickets for 21, but it is less the performance of individuals than the impression that the team are beginning to function as a more effective unit that gives some hope for the tougher series ahead.
Nasser Hussain, judged by India's manager, Sandip Patil, to have been England's man of the series, reckoned England would have to raise their game by 10 per cent. This may only be playing with words, but the selectors' decision to make Hussain captain of the A team last winter looks better with each game that passes: he has the presence and intellect to be Mike Atherton's vice-captain and an able successor if the incumbent captain's batteries should run out first.
England's four fast or fast-medium bowlers all had something to show for their efforts yesterday after India had finished the England first innings in the first 16 minutes. Having started like a pack of ravenous wolves at Edgbaston, Dominic Cork and company had looked more like a flock of the Trent Bridge pigeons in the first innings here, so the extra zip which Cork produced to make Ganguly play on to his stumps, the ball with which Chris Lewis had Sanjay Manjrekar caught off his gloves in the gully and the pace and hostility of Alan Mullally, especially in his spell after tea when Rahul Dravid edged him to first slip, were all significant.
Ganguly had hit four confident boundaries in two overs after lunch to dispel any danger threatened by Min Patel and the power and authority of Tendulkar's cutting and driving made sure that there was no Indian debacle after Mongia had driven Mullally to cover point in the 51st over.
Frank Dalling, the new groundsman, says that he may have to consider relaying the square and a few of the Nottinghamshire bowlers would rejoice if he did
That wicket came at least an hour too late for England to entertain serious hopes of winning. Chiefly, of course, this was a reflection of a good old-fashioned Nottingham pitch, which was a little too slow. Frank Dalling, the new groundsman, says that he may have to consider relaying the square and a few of the Nottinghamshire bowlers would rejoice if he did, but the odd ball did, in fact, do something off the pitch throughout this match when bowlers put in extra effort or used their skill to cut the ball off the seam as Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad frequently did.
Ganguly made it swing away, too, and he picked up England's last two wickets that way yesterday. It was a little bit of swing and a little bit of luck which later allowed Ealham to crown a promising first Test match with a spell of four for three in 17 balls.
Ganguly was India's great find of the series, if only because Prasad, also un- capped before the tour started, had already established himself in one-day internationals. Having discovered Dravid as well, the Indians have made greater strides than England from the three matches. Tendulkar also gained useful experience as a captain here after Azharuddin's injury, though the senior man came out at No 6 yesterday to play a few wristy strokes in what will probably prove to have been his last Test innings in England. Tendulkar is expected to take command in the home Tests against Australia and South Africa later this year.
England have more immediate concerns: the three- match series against a powerful, confident Pakistan team which starts at Lord's two weeks tomorrow. England's best chance may be to catch Pakistan cold in that game, as they did the Indians at Edgbaston. Having played winter series against Zimbabwe and Australia, however, the Pakistanis will be better tuned to the pace of the five-day game and with two thoroughbred fast bowlers, two highly promising ones, a high-class leg-break and googly bowler and a wealth of batting, they will take some beating.
Assuming Hussain's finger has recovered, England's selectors will have to decide whether to restore Nick Knight to the opening batting position he relinquished only because of a broken finger, and how they may give the bowling more pep. If Mullally is to be replaced it is likely to be by one of Darren Gough, Simon Brown or David Millns. If Patel is asked to go back to Kent for a time to concentrate on spinning the ball more vigorously, either Phil Tufnell or Ian Salisbury could take his place.
Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at email@example.com