Riding out the storm
If you can't pocket a hurricane, you can hold onto your hat, keep your feet
on the ground and survive. That's just what England did today - emerging
from the Sachin spectacular with ten Indian wickets and a lead of 116. Not
bad for a team suddenly depleted of its senior player 12 hours before the
start of the match.
England in India 2001 are nothing if not inexperienced. Only Nasser Hussain
has played 50 Tests, so they skip from pillar to post learning on their
feet. Every ball is a new nut to be stored away and chewed on laboriously
late at night. Today they will masticate well.
Duncan Fletcher has endlessly talked over the tactics for each batsman,
standing by a blackboard and instructing his charges: gullies for VVS
Laxman, Andy Flintoff for Sourav Ganguly, frustration for Sachin Tendulkar.
And today they worked pretty well.
That nagging off-stump line may be not be Steve Waugh's cup of tea but with
limited resources comes good-housekeeping. British women in the 1940s had to
make do with black lines down the back of their legs instead of stockings.
England can't blast Tendulkar out, but they can do their best to bore him.
And anyway, an 8-1 field wasn't 8-1 for very long. Tendulkar with those
elastic wrists just collected the ball from outside off-stump and drove it
through mid-on. It won't have helped Hoggard's guts - gippy like Andy
Flintoff's. Yet both of them just kept coming - thudding in, tirelessly.
Hoggard induced the odd false stroke from Tendulkar, and eventually got him
- for the second consecutive time. Flintoff even found the energy, as the
sky turned pink, to viciously bounce Tinu Yohannan.
Richard Dawson was the most vulnerable bowler, going at about five an over.
Offspinners grow on trees here, so anything too short or a bit too wide was
just whipped off the legs with half-closed eyes. He should remember, as he
looks at his figures tonight, that Tendulkar had a vested interest in
destroying any confidence Dawson had built up from the first Test.
For Ashley Giles though, it was a dream comeback. From hobbling ice-bucket
to best Test figures in a couple of days. The Indians couldn't swat away him
like one of the plague of mosquitoes who have descended on Ahemedabad, and
they discovered that he had quite a bite. He found drift through the air and
turn, and destroyed the Indian tail with the alacrity of Harbhajan Singh as
India lost 4 for 23.
It was a dream day for the barmy army, enclosed in a pen on the far side of
the ground. They might not be able to get a drink in Ahmedabad, but they can
dine out on a heady day with the ball for England, combined with some
electric fielding particularly from the arachnid-like Mark Ramprakash. They
even have sweet memories of Tendulkar - now safely back in the pavilion.
Assistant editor Tanya Aldred is covering the whole tour for Wisden.com.
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