India 295 & 342 (Vijay 95, Jadeja 68) v
England 319 & 105-4 (Sharma 2-13)
Second Test, Lord's, day four
After setting England 319 to win the second Test at Lord's, India took three wickets for two runs on their way to reducing their hosts to 105 for four at stumps on day four.
England’s hopes of winning the match are all but over after another day in which captain Alastair Cook and his men failed to capitalise on their chances and have fallen short once again.
Runs from India's lower order including half-centuries by Ravindra Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar enabled the tourists to be bowled out for 342 despite Murali Vijay (95) just missing out on a century.
Jadeja made 68 and Kumar 52 to share a 99-run partnership for the eighth wicket.
Then, Ishant Sharma took two for 13 as England slipped from 70 for one to 72 for four in a calamitous final session.
Their last two specialist batsmen, Joe Root and Moeen Ali, steered them through to stumps but still needing another 214 runs to deny India victory, England appear to be heading 1-0 down in the five-match series.
While England have been poor once again, it is important to praise MS Dhoni and his Indian charges.
Starting the day on 169 for four, looking to build a commanding lead, India started circumspectly with Vijay and Dhoni moving the score along to 202 before the latter was well held by Ian Bell in the slips.
Liam Plunkett was the man with the wicket, as he once again bowled with pace and control to cause the Indian batsmen problems. In good form after Trent Bridge, Stuart Binny was unable to continue in the same vein and fell attempting to dispatch Moeen Ali into the stands - Cook the man with an assured catch well taken over his shoulder.
With the score at 235 for seven the match was once again in the balance and England would have been looking to use the new ball and keep India below 150.
However, Jadeja’s high-risk tactics paid dividends as he proceeded to flay England’s tiring bowlers to all parts of the Lords ground.
Jadeja’s innings was a brutal counter attack as he took the game, in all likelihood, beyond England, scoring 68 from just 57 balls. Jadeja found an extremely willing batting ally in the increasingly assured figure of Kumar.
Kumar has been the undoubted star of the tour thus far for the tourists. Fresh from his six-wicket haul during England’s first innings, Kumar once again showed his prowess with willow in hand as, alongside Jadeja, he infuriated and demoralised the England attack.
By the time Jadeja was dismissed by Stokes, India led by 310 runs and were in complete control of the Test match. Mercifully for the home crowd, England picked up the final three wickets in quick succession to dismiss the Indians for 342 – a lead of 318.
During the end of the afternoon session the focus shifted onto the heavy shoulders of England’s much maligned captain. Cook made it through to tea unscathed, his partner however was not as fortunate. Sam Robson paid the price for failing to use his bat when prodding forward to Jadeja and fell LBW for just seven.
After tea, Cook and Ballance began to grind out a partnership, as Kumar finally showed signs of fatigue, however Sharma and Mohammed Shami took on the mantle and led the Indian attack throughout the evening session.
Cook battled hard and concentrated like a man who saw each ball as a grenade sent to attack his stumps, his technique and even his position as captain. He lasted 93 deliveries and had scraped 22 runs before he was caught behind from the bowling of Sharma.
Before Cook’s torture was over Ballance fell in similar manner for 27 and Bell was bowled by a low one from Sharma, and when the skipper fell, England were reeling at 72 for four.
Ali and Root managed to see England through the close and put on 33 in the process but they’ll need to bat until at least lunch tomorrow to worry Dhoni and his men.
After 15 Tests away from home without a win over the last three years, India finally appear to be closing in on a long-awaited victory.
The sad truth is that, as well as India have played, you can’t help but feel that England are constantly shooting themselves in the foot. The talent is there, the experience and mental fortitude however is still very much a work in process.
© Cricket World 2014