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Mohali Test heading towards a stalemate

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A stupendous bowling performance from the English pace trio during the afternoon had forced India to guard themselves against a possible defeat. The Indian batsmen overcame their hurdles cautiously but with that lost valuable time for their bowlers to push for a victory. The hosts have got to a lead of 285 by stumps on the fourth day and could be forced to bat for another 30 minutes on the final day before their bowlers have a shot at England. This was after India had mopped up the English tail just before lunch. The Test Match is heading mostly towards a draw with the morning session on Day 5 expected to be disrupted due to fog like it has been for today and yesterday.

Morning Session: India mop up English tail in a hurry

Play at the PCA Stadium in Mohali could get underway only at 11:00 AM because of the delay caused by heavy fog. Lunch was pushed back to 12:00 PM and the remaining two sessions consisted of two hours each. England entered the middle with a first innings deficit of 171 and with 4 wickets in hand. Harbhajan Singh provided an important breakthrough in the 3rd over of the day’s play when he had Matt Prior caught down the legside with some extra bounce and turn. In his next over, Harbhajan got rid of another all rounder Stuart Broad, who misread the line of an off break from round the sticks, the left hander had offered no shot and in the process lost his off stump. Dhoni quickly brought in Zaheer to replace Mishra at the other end and the left armer got one to reverse in to knock the leg stump of another capable lower order batsman in Swann. And in the 84th over, Harbhajan got Monty Panesar caught at short leg to wrap up the innings.

England could only add 20 runs today losing four wickets in 10.5 overs. Their last six wickets went down for the addition of just the 22 runs and with that a huge lead of 151 was conceded to India. Harbhajan Singh, who has clearly struggled in this series ended up with flattering figures of 20.5-2-68-4. Zaheer Khan was the second successful bowler taking 3 for 76 and was simply magical with the old ball today. The Indian openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag had to see through a couple of overs before lunch which they did in an attacking manner to score a couple of fours.

Afternoon Session: Anderson, Broad put India on the backfoot

India had a dismal start to the proceedings in the afternoon session when Virender Sehwag ran himself out after a slight misfielding. Sehwag threw his wicket after looking so good in a brief knock of 17 from 17 with 2 fours. After his departure, the young new ball bowlers – Anderson and Broad became very aggressive and kept on bowling a probing line around the off stump to Gambhir and Dravid. The two batsmen were tested with pace, swing and seam which dried up the runs completely. In the 12th over, Rahul Dravid got bowled as he made the mistake of going back instead of coming forward. Broad was the bowler who sneaked one through with low bounce to break The Wall. Dravid followed up his first innings century with a painful 19-ball duck!

A few overs later, it was time for Jimmy Anderson to strike for England as Tendulkar played one away from his body to get caught at gully and India slipped to 44 for 3 in the 20th over. India only had the comfort of the lead almost getting to 200 and the solid presence of Gautam Gambhir, who was keen on staying in the middle and in the process becoming over cautious. His new partner VVS Laxman started off shakily and had just gone past a possible pair. By Tea, India crawled to 56 for 3 in 25 overs with Gambhir being the mainstay on 26. The afternoon session was all about red hot pace, reverse swing and seam bowling from both Anderson and Broad which had pushed India to defend rather than attack!

Final Session: India crawl towards safety

India had to surrender itself to the high quality fast bowling from their opponents. The ball had started to reverse swing very early in the innings and James Anderson was bowling with superb rhythm. Anderson got able support from Broad and Flintoff which never let India off the hook not even after Tea. Gambhir was never allowed to break free with the line of attack being outside off. Laxman started to time the ball sweetly but before he could settle in for a bigger knock got run out because of his slow legs. It was during the 39th over that Gambhir had rocked back to drive Monty Panesar fiercely to covers where Flintoff bent down quickly to his right to stop the ball and hurl it back to the keeper who found Laxman short of the crease! Any other player would have comfortably dragged his way into the crease but VVS Laxman was just too snail paced in his running. For the fourth time in this series, Laxman failed to get a decent score, this time he had to settle with 15 from 49 balls with 2 fours.

Laxman’s wicket saw India get reduced to 80 for 4 with the lead moving onto just 231. A couple of more wickets would have brightened the chances of an English victory on the final day. It was during this stage that the match changed its complexion because of the entry of Yuvraj. The imposing left hander struck some vital boundaries to push the lead further while Gambhir kept his end intact. Through Gambhir, India was batting it out for a draw and through Yuvraj was looking forward for a thin opportunity to force a win. By close of play which was just few minutes before 5:00 PM, Yuvraj had blasted 39 from 40 balls with 5 fours and a six off Monty to take India’s lead to 285. Gambhir with a disciplined knock of 44 from 155 balls with 3 fours defied the bowlers from triggering a bigger batting collapse. India doesn’t seem to be bothered about just a draw as the 2-Test Series is already in their pocket because of a win at Chennai. The stars of the fourth day’s play were perhaps James Anderson with 15-8-32-1 and Stuart Broad with 11-2-22-1.

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