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India pile up 453 before England gets its act right

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England found some luck going their way finally in the Mohali Test but it came rather too late. The homeside despite a batting collapse had stitched together a big first innings total of 453 on a sporting wicket. Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid continued from where they had left yesterday and together stretched their partnership to 314! The Indian innings strangely went upto a little over 158 overs at a sluggish run rate of 2.86. It was the afternoon session that got England comeback strongly when they strangulated the Indian batsmen to concede just over 50 runs in 28 overs at the cost of four wickets! It was a strange start to Day 2 at 9:00 AM under hazy conditions and the end was much stranger when play was called off five minutes before the ground came under bright sunshine for the first time ever in two days! England were happy though to have avoided a tricky 20-30 minutes of batting towards the end.

Morning Session: Dravid gets a hundred and Gambhir eyes his second double century

The overnight pair of Gambhir and Dravid eased their way through until the second new ball was taken as and when it was available in the 80th over. The two players were taken for a shock when the Umpires had decided that play will start on time at 9:00 AM while everyone around were expecting it to get delayed due to the fog. But Gambhir and Dravid got into a nice groove and even the second new ball hardly troubled them. Infact it was taken to the cleaners by both the batsmen and by drinks India had collected 60 runs in 17 overs. After drinks, Rahul Dravid flicked one poor delivery to fine leg to bring up his 26th century, one that came when his career and popularity were in a serious downslide. By lunch, India looked invincible in this test match at 302/1 in 105 overs, this session providing 123 runs in 33 overs. Gambhir moved upto 167 and Dravid was getting closer to him on 124 having got rid of the burden on his shoulders.

Afternoon Session: Swann puts a brake on India’s charge

Having got themselves into a safe position, India decided to carry out an assault to smash their way quickly to a big total before declaring. After a few ambitious big shots, Gautam Gambhir perished in an attempt to play another one off Graeme Swann. But this time the bowler got the better of the left hander which resulted in a miscued hit to the off side. Gambhir threw away an easy double century and had to be content with 179 (from 348 balls with 25 fours and a six). His partnership with Dravid was a record 314 for the 2nd wicket. A few overs later, it was the turn of Dravid (136 from 328 balls with 19 fours) to lose his wicket when he holed out to long off. It was Swann again who had outsmarted the batsman with his teasing flight and loop. Six overs later, this wonderful off spinner would go onto hit the pad of Tendulkar (11 from 26 balls) dead infront of the stumps when the Master batsman had attempted a reckless paddle sweep. And in the very next over i.e. the 121st one, Freddie Flintoff beat VVS Laxman (0 from 24 balls) on his pads thanks to some reverse swing. India with that was jolted by four wickets in the space of just 19 runs in over 10 overs.

The score crawled to 339 for 5 when Laxman was dismissed and could have been worse but for a sitter dropped at gully offered by Yuvraj off Flintoff’s bowling. Yuvraj (12*) tightened up after that along with Dhoni (6*) and India went to Tea at 356 for 5 in 133 overs. It was a great session for the English players as they gave away just the 54 runs in 28 overs taking four wickets against some brilliant strokeplayers. Swann continued to impress with his control and variations and Flintoff was pounding into the crease all the time, he even crossed the 150 kmph speed a couple of times!

Final Session: England restrict India to 453

India kept its intent of smashing some quick runs and look for a declaration just few minutes before close. A few runs came by from Yuvraj Singh but his stay was limited by Monty Panesar who picked up his first wicket with some sharp turn and bounce that caught the glove of the left hander in an attempted sweep shot. Yuvraj had a mixed bag until then scoring 27 from 66 balls with 3 fours and six off a full toss from Swann. Dhoni (29 from 73 balls with 3 fours) stretched India’s total past 400 with support coming in from Harbhajan before smacking Anderson straight to mid wicket. Harbhajan played a cameo of 24 from 21 with 2 fours and a six and so did no.10 Amit Mishra, who got 23 from 31 balls which included a straight six before the inevitable finish from the bowlers. Flintoff with 30.2-10-54-3 and Swann with 45-11-122-3 were the obvious pick of the bowlers.

It was finally the end of the Indian first innings which had lasted a little over 158 overs in almost two days of play. They had got enough runs on the board to feel safe in this match. England on the other hand were satisfied to have prolonged this innings to that many overs. Their openers were supposed to negotiate about 20-30 minutes before stumps but the Umpires rescued them by calling off play because of bad light at around 4:35. England start their first innings fresh in the morning tomorrow. Their batsmen have a tough challenge against the seaming and also the turning ball.