England find themselves in the Driver’s Seat in the Chennai Test as they pushed a strong Indian batting side to 155 for 6 at close of an eventful second day’s play. As many as 11 wickets went down on a track that was no way bad at all for the batsmen. Debutant Graeme Swann was the man who provided the turning point of the day as he captured two wickets in his very first over. England became absolutely rejuvenated after Swann’s magical first over and the visitors made sure that their first innings total of 316 was good enough.
Morning Session: England keep crawling in their first innings
England couldn’t get off the mark in the first two overs from the fast bowlers and were going no where from their overnight total of 229 for 5. They also went onto suffer a massive blow to their plans when a bowling change from MS Dhoni to bring on Amit Mishra early caused the downfall of Freddie Flintoff. It was a very soft dismissal for the big man as he got out bat pad to a googly. Flintoff didn’t even score a single run today. Even after his dismissal, India still found it difficult to take the wickets quickly because of the stubborn and assured defensive methods employed by James Anderson. Matt Prior, the regular batsman took care of the scoring through his sweeps and flicks which developed a fine partnership for England. India found its breakthrough after a gap of more than 18 overs when Anderson (19 from 82 balls) played a meaty sweep shot off Harbhajan straight in the hands of Yuvraj at deep squareleg.
India went to lunch with still a couple of wickets to take as Prior continued to look solid and was garnering enough support at the other end. The third wicket to go before lunch was that of all rounder Swann’s who was forced to nick a top spinner from Harbhajan. England had collected 65 runs in that morning session in 29 overs.
Afternoon Session: Swann’s double blow shakes up India
England were bowled out finally for 316. The last two pairs stretched the innings to another 10 overs after lunch. Prior got his first fifty against India and remained unbeaten on 53 from 102 balls with just the one boundary. The last two wickets were taken by Yuvraj Singh and Ishant Sharma respectively. The most successful bowlers were Harbhajan Singh (38-2-96-3) and Amit Mishra (34-6-99-3).
The swashbuckling opening pair of Sehwag and Gambhir was put on the backfoot by some pacy bowling from Anderson and Harmison. The pressure mounted on Sehwag (9 from 16 balls with 2 fours) as he felt the pinch of not being able to get on top of the bowling and soon played a dreadful cut shot to an incoming delivery to be bowled. India lost its first wicket in just the 6th over. The bowling continued to be top notch and even a minor injury scare to Harmison didn’t put England in trouble at all.
The out of form Rahul Dravid was constantly beaten outside the off stump by Flintoff but seemed to have getting in some kind of touch while Gambhir had to be patient at the other end. The match changed its complexion in the 14th over when KP brought on debutant Swann into the attack. After getting greeted with a boundary in his very first ball, Swann got his revenge when Gambhir (19 from 43 balls with 3 fours) was given out lbw after padding up to a full length delivery bowled from round the sticks. Three balls later, Swann beat Dravid (3 from 24 balls) on the pads with some sharp turn which accounted for the third Indian wicket. It was another bad day for Dravid as he had also dropped a sitter of a slip catch early on. Daryl Harper gave two lbw decisions in the space of four balls as India slipped to 37 for 3 in 14 overs at Tea.
Final Session: England put India on the mat
India went in this session under massive pressure and desperately needed a good partnership of around 100 to get back on track. Sachin Tendulkar with all his experience was the key and he had a very calm and relaxed VVS Laxman as company. The experienced duo started the session in style putting away the slightly bad deliveries for runs. Things were looking absolutely fine until the 32nd over when VVS Laxman dragged a flick shot back to Monty Panesar, who took ages to realize that he had actually taken a blinder of a catch. Laxman’s promising stay in the middle was cut shot to a score of 24 (from 60 balls with 3 fours). He put on 61 with Tendulkar for the 4th wicket. In the very next over, India received a big blow when Sachin Tendulkar patted a gentle loosener back to Flintoff, who was bowling the first ball of a new spell. Tendulkar was dominating in his innings otherwise, getting his 37 from 48 balls with 4 fours and a six off Graeme Swann over mid wicket. It was a pity that he had lost his concentration because of two interruptions caused by the ball change.
England now had a firm grip on the match itself as India got reduced to a precarious 102 for 5 when Yuvraj and Dhoni got together. The two batsmen looked determined to put up a fight and England was well aware of that. KP brought in Freddie Flintoff into the attack and the fast bowler peppered Yuvraj and Dhoni with some energetic short deliveries and followed it up with some banter with the left hander. Yuvraj (14 from 41 balls with 2 fours) was disturbed by that and ended up playing a loose drive outside off stump to get caught in the slips off Harmison. It was in the dying moments of the day’s play that Yuvraj’s wicket fell and India went at stumps disappointingly at 155 for 6 in 45 overs. Skipper MS Dhoni on 24 and Harbhajan on 13 were the last ray of hope for the home side which was trailing behind by 161 runs.