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Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Even India’s back-to-form greatest batsman Sachin Tendulkar was unable to stop England grinding out an advantageous position on day one of the third Test at Eden Gardens.
But James Anderson claimed the scalp of the ‘Little Master’ for the eighth time in his career - equalling the amount of times legend Muttiah Muralitharan claimed the Indian batsman.
Veteran Tendulkar (76) remains without a Test century in his last 29 innings dating back to early 2011 - but he and opener Gautam Gambhir (60) did manage to salvage a stumps total of 273 for seven.
On a pitch already offering some uneven bounce to the spinners, and some carry and swing for the seamers with the new and old ball, England could easily have been more significantly-rewarded for their disciplined and determined efforts.
James Anderson (three for 68) thought he had Yuvraj Singh lbw for nought, but could not convince umpire Rod Tucker ball had hit pad in line, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni was within inches of holing out at midwicket off Graeme Swann first ball.
Instead, numbers six and seven each went on to frustrate England - the former in a stand of 79 with Tendulkar - in this pivotal match of a four-Test series level at 1-1.
The signs were ominous for England after Alastair Cook lost his third successive toss of the series at a ground where India have declared with more than 600 on the board in the first innings of their last three Tests.
Cook’s opposite number Dhoni had predicted a modicum of help for the pace bowlers in the first hour, and so it proved for Anderson and Steven Finn.
It came to nothing, though, as Gambhir and Virender Sehwag approached a 50 stand - until their running between the wickets failed them.
Sehwag clipped the first ball of the 11th over to midwicket. But Samit Patel saved the boundary with a diving stop, and Finn’s race from mid-on in support paid off handsomely when he threw in over the stumps to comfortably run out Sehwag after he was sent back for a third.
It was hardly the way England might have envisaged taking the first wicket, but proved the value of all their attention to detail and painstaking training.
Monty Panesar’s first success came in more conventional, indeed classical, fashion.
He had worked hard to draw Cheteshwar Pujara forward several times, and then surprised him on the back foot with an arm ball which snaked through the defence to hit middle-stump.
Gambhir, joined by Tendulkar to the obligatory raucous crowd reception at this cavernous stadium, appeared unperturbed by a failure from India’s prolific new number three.
The left-handed opener had hit 10 fours and duly completed his 81-ball half-century with a scampered single before lunch.
But he was first to go in the afternoon, laying back to cut after losing the strike against Panesar and edging a sharp chance to slip which Jonathan Trott just about clung on to.
Tendulkar scratched his way to his first 20, regularly playing and missing at Finn and then Anderson as Cook operated the two seamers in tandem with Panesar.
Finn’s fine spell was in vain, but Anderson got a deserved breakthrough when Virat Kohli edged low to Swann at second slip.
Swann had bowled only three overs at that stage, but was called into the attack to give Panesar a rest after 21 unchanged.
Yuvraj began tentatively, but two driven fours off Swann gave him confidence - and after tea, he immediately went up the wicket to Panesar and struck him for a straight six.
England were toiling by the time Yuvraj lost concentration and poked a catch to cover off Swann, and it might have been two in two next ball when Dhoni’s attempt to dominate from the outset brought only a thick inside-edge just short of Patel at midwicket.
Tendulkar began to live up to his billing, increasingly fluent in a 155-ball innings which contained 13 fours but ended in anti-climax - and no 101st international hundred - when he followed some Anderson outswing and was well-caught behind by Matt Prior, diving low to his right.
England then had an obvious chance to run out Ravichandran Ashwin for just a single, he and Dhoni contriving another India mix-up only for Finn to fumble at mid-on when another accurate return to the striker’s end would have done the trick.
Anderson, however, ensured it was unarguably England’s day when he broke another handy stand by getting through Ashwin’s defences with the new ball in the penultimate over.