Report: England vs India, 4th Test - Day 2
Root steadies England after early strikes by Bhuvneshwar
England were leading by 85 runs with four wickets in hand at stumps on the second day at Old Trafford. After a slow start to the day with the loss of three wickets, Joe Root (48*) dropped anchor to help England stay on course. The middle-order batsman was supported by Jos Buttler (22*) in helping the team surpass India's first innings total and build a lead until rain interrupted play and couldn’t be resumed. In an unbroken 67-run partnership the duo had taken the team to 237/6 when play was called off on Friday.
Earlier, the hosts, who were cruising along in the final session of Day 1, were slowed down in the first hour of Day 2 by the Bhuvneshwar Kumar-led attack. The wiry pacer removed both the overnight batsmen – Ian Bell and Chris Jordon upfront and plugged the flow of runs.
Jordon was the first to be sent back to the pavilion. The night-watchman perished pulling a short ball to the midwicket area where Aaron took a good catch. Four runs later, Ian Bell who had brought up his half-century in the morning was the next to be sent back. Having whizzed past the middle-order batsman’s willow on the previous ball bowling the off-stump line, Bhuvneshwar got the next delivery to take the edge off Bell’s bat before being caught safely by Dhoni.
With the hosts still 12 short of India’s 152-run first innings score, Ali joined Root in helping the team overcome the deficit.
Ali who had been troubled by the short ball earlier in the series was then peppered by the Indians with the short stuff. Although he sent a couple of them sailing to the fence it also kept him on his toes. A while later Aaron who had been hitting the deck hard since the morning, disrupted Ali’s woodwork with a fuller one to leave England on 170/6.
With the pace duo of Bhuvneshwar and Aaron turning things around for India, the India captain rotated and kept them in the mix to maintain pressure on the opposition. However, Root and Buttler held their ground and watchfully took the team to lunch at 201/6.
Resuming the innings post-Lunch, the Root-Buttler pair had added 36 runs to the total when rain interrupted play. Root who is turning out to be a vital cog in the England line-up once again displayed the ability to hold up one end as he garnered runs. With only nine overs bowled in the second session showers halted play.
Day 1: India 1st inn 152 all out in 46.4 overs (MS Dhoni 71, R Ashwin 40, S Broad 6/25, J Anderson 3/46); England 1st inn 113/3 in 35 overs (I Bell 45*, G Ballance 37, V Aaron 2/26)
Day 2: England 1st inn 237/6 in 71 overs (I Bell 58, J Root 48*, B Kumar 3/47)
Felt like a spring chicken: Ashwin
Ashwin enjoyed his first day at Test cricket in over six months
In the first three Tests of the series between England and India, R Ashwin was conspicuous by his absence. Everyone from the fans to the experts rooted for him to be included in the playing XI.
On the first day of the Old Trafford Test, he showed why. Walking in to bat with India at 63 for 6, Ashwin breezed his way to a 42-ball 40, teaming up with MS Dhoni for a 66-run partnership.
Later, coming on to bowl at the fag end of the day, the off-spinner bowled a tidy spell of seven overs for 16 runs. After his first day at Test cricket in six months, Ashwin said he was eager and hungry.
“It felt good; I felt like a spring chicken out of the box,” he said. “I felt like I was doing something new and I just went there and enjoyed my game. I did feel a bit scratchy and different so I had to fight my way through.”
Ashwin said it was a ploy between him and Dhoni to counterattack the England bowlers instead of succumbing under the scoreboard pressure.
“The ball was going around and kicking off the length as well. When we got together he asked me to play my game and the shots I wanted to play,” Ashwin said.
“We thought that was the way to go because with hardly any runs on the board and so many wickets down, we didn’t just want to be sitting ducks there. We were rotating the strike and not giving many overs away in terms of maidens. I thought MS batted brilliantly and it was a very gutsy knock from him.”
India were bundled out for 152 on the first morning after their catastrophic start of 8 for 4 in the first 30 minutes of the Test. As James Anderson and Stuart Broad swung the ball around under the overcast sky, six Indian batsmen fell without scoring.
Ashwin said it was difficult to bat out there but rued not getting a few more runs. “From whatever I played, I felt the pitch had something in it and the bowlers exploited it pretty well. Yes, maybe we could have got a little more runs. I thought we bowled pretty well to make a comeback and if we can knock off a few tomorrow morning, it will be nice.”
Ashwin looked set and comfortable at the crease and the runs flowed fluently. However, in an attempt to pull a short one from Broad, he gave his wicket away.
“I am pretty disappointed that I threw it away in the end; I could have scored more runs from there,” he rued. “I have only myself to blame because if we had a few more runs, we could have put a bit more pressure on them. But still, if we get helpful conditions tomorrow morning and get some early wickets, we will be right back into the game.”
About his bowling, the offie said he felt comfortable with the way he struck his rhythm. “I was just feeling my way through as it was a different day for me being back in the game,” Ashwin said.
“When I started, I just wanted to get my line and length right and didn’t want to give away too many runs. I struck my rhythm really well. And I am a sort of bowler that if I get three-four overs going nicely, I start toying around with my speed and revolutions on the ball. I felt really comfortable towards the end of the spell.”
Ashwin had a word of encouragement for Varun Aaron, who is playing his second Test after making a debut in 2011. “He got it right in the pockets of two-three overs and he bowled short spells,” Ashwin said of Aaron.
“When he got it right, he was handful. He definitely got Gary Ballance into a lot of trouble, who wasn’t able to get into good positions against Varun. He bowled quick and sharp. We just hope he carries on and gives us a fifer tomorrow.”