An exciting final session on Day 4 saw India rattle England thanks to Virender Sehwag’s initiative and now the hosts fancy their chances of even winning the Chennai Test. They need to get another 256 runs on the fifth day and have 9 wickets in hand! Despite the target being an improbable 387, Virender Sehwag came out all guns blazing to smash a 68-ball 83 and as a result of that England may not have the luxury of having many close-in fielders on a decisive final day and that should well release the pressure on the Indian batsmen against some difficult deliveries. The match is wide open for either an Indian win or an English win tomorrow.
Morning Session: Strauss, Collingwood continue from where they had left
England had a solid morning session in which they had collected 72 runs in 26 overs to take their overall lead to 319. The visitors didn’t even lose a single wicket at all and had shut India’s chances of winning this test realistically. Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood were cautiously taking the game forward in England’s favour. The two batsmen were quite reluctant to play any forceful shots but at the same time hardly offered any chance through their careful shot selection. Harbhajan Singh tries everything from bowling slower in the air to his quicker ones, but nothing was good enough for him to take his first wicket of the innings.
India was left to hoping to prolong this English innings as long as possible to kill out time. During the course of the morning session, Andrew Strauss became the 10th England player to score a century in each innings, and the second after Gooch to achieve the same feat against India. Paul Collingwood got himself 7 runs short of his hundred at lunch which took England to 244 for 3 in 80 overs.
Afternoon Session: India forces to delay the declaration
The afternoon session was a big let down for England. Paul Collingwood worked his way to his 7th test hundred. Although both the batsmen got past their tons, there was no real impetus in the innings. Harbhajan Singh was the one to provide a breakthrough as one of the rarest of rare frontfoot cover drives from Strauss went up in the air to short covers. That finally brought an end to the 4th wicket partnership that took England out of the woods from 43 for 3 in the 14th over to 257 for 4 in the 86th over. Strauss ended up with 108 from 244 balls with 8 fours. At the other end, Ishant Sharma put an early end to Freddie Flintoff (4) with a terrific late outswinger and six overs later, Zaheer Khan returned back to trap centurion Paul Collingwood (108 from 250 balls with 9 fours) infront of the stumps.
England by Tea instead of getting the quick runs was losing wickets much to the delight of India. At the same time, Kevin Pietersen was very nervous to declare the innings although his lead was 376. MS Dhoni’s team bowled just the 22.5 overs in that session in which England scored just the 57 runs with two fours only. For the record, they went to Tea at 301 for 8 in 102.5 overs.
Final Session: Sehwag shows the way to chase down 387
England much to the surprise of everybody continued to bat after Tea. Little did they achieve as their only hope Matt Prior expansive cover drive off Ishant ended in the hands of covers. Kevin Pietersen declared the innings at 311/9 which gave an improbable target of 387. The previous highest ever chase achieved in India was only 276! The Indian team however had no plans to defend out for a draw and Sehwag came out with the clear vision of putting the English attack to sword. Gautam Gambhir was the perfect foil to him, the left hander restrained himself from being adventurous and all he was to give as much as strike to Sehwag. A series of free flowing shots came through from Sehwag and even before the bowling side could realize what was happening, the 50 of the innings came in just the 6th over.
The Sehwag-Gambhir showed continued while the target came down quickly with almost every over going for plenty. The only bowler who held its own in the carnage was Andrew Flintoff while the rest of the bowlers were clearly intimidated by Sehwag. The dashing opener missed out on the fastest ever fifty as he calmed down for a bit, his rapid half century came in just the 10th over after facing 32 balls and with the help of 8 fours and 2 sixes. The dangerous opening stand was broken in the 23rd over when a cute paddle sweep from Sehwag didn’t come off as planned and the right hander got struck low on the pad by a flat delivery from Swann. Sehwag departed back to the pavilion scoring 83 from 68 balls with 11 fours and 4 sixes but not before powering India to 117/1. Gambhir along with the out of form Dravid ensured that India went to stumps with the loss of only Sehwag. The target of 387 was remarkably brought down to 256 as India ended Day 4 at 131/1 in 29 overs. Gambhir, who was in the backseat from the start of the innings helped himself to a solid looking 41.