|Scorecard:||India v England|
|Player:||MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Z Khan, A Mishra, AJ Strauss, PD Collingwood, IR Bell, I Sharma|
|Event:||England in India 2008/09|
DateLine: 13th December 2008
The English team buoyed by last evening’s performance continued their dominance of this Test match into the third day. India had their moments, but for two hours, England looked the better team of the both. They bowled well and then took the game further away from India with some assured batting from Strauss and Collingwood. The final session saw complete dominance from England and Strauss, dropped on 15 by Dhoni of a persevering Mishra, is looking at another hundred in this Test match.
Trailing by 161 overnight, skipper Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh began the day on a positive note. They were mixing caution with aggression and were looking very comfortable in the middle against pace and spin alike.
Flintoff opened the bowling with Panesar, but he wasn’t able to bowl at the same intensity level that he showed the previous evening. He looked flat and left the field immediately and even Panesar was struggling with his rhythm all day. Dhoni played a very mature innings and Harbhajan was the aggressor of the both. Dhoni played a perfect second fiddle and as the hour progressed Harbhajan was looking like an accomplished top order batsman, with feet moving well both against pace and spin. The only time he reminded the viewers that he was a tailender was when he pulled out an audacious reverse sweep and played a ball pitched outside the leg stump over the slip fielder for a boundary.
The closest England came to a breakthrough during the first hour was when an inside edge from Dhoni shot low past Bell at short leg. But after the first hour, the first wicket fell to Panesar as Harbhajan gave a bat-pad catch to Bell at short-leg.
Immediately Flintoff was brought back and he trapped Zaheer on the back foot by one that shaped in. Dhoni largely played within himself and brought up a half-century off 77 balls despite the pain of a twisted ankle. However, with the final two tailenders in, he tried to attack Panesar the next over, only to find Pietersen at mid-off. Mishra and Sharma whittled England's advantage down by a further 22 before lunch was called.
Another seesawing session
Flintoff wrapped up the innings with the fourth ball after lunch. England had a 75 run lead and they were smiling to themselves, but two hours later an already fascinating contest were turning into a cracker. Strauss and Cook then took the match further away by sharing a 29 run partnership and the lead grew beyond 100 run mark. Ishant Sharma lost his way in his opening spell and was culpable of bowling seven no-balls in his first session. But he soon made amends by removing Cook, edging to Dhoni. As in the first innings spin was introduced in the ninth over and again it was Amit Mishra ahead of Harbhajan. He produced a good ball, which bounced more than expected for Bell to glove a catch to Gambhir at short-leg. Then came the masterstroke of Dhoni, sensing the Pietersen was not at ease facing Yuvraj he called him into the attack and Yuvraj responded by trapping Pietersen leg before in his first over. The contest evened up at this point and it could have been better for India, too, because Dhoni put down a thick edge off Strauss when he had 15. England were tottering at 43/3.
By the time the umpire called for tea Strauss was batting serenely at 30 with Collingwood giving him good support.
England marches on
Post-tea, it was England all the way. Dhoni tried his best to dislodge the partnership between Strauss and Collingwood but they batted resolutely. They did not give the Indian bowlers any chance as they kept rotating the strike very well. It was a surprising factor that there was only a single maiden right into the 46th over of the English innings. Strauss and Collingwood refused to be bogged down by the spinners and they used their feet beautifully to the spinners. Harbhajan looked very listless and was not on top of his game. Only Mishra looked like getting a wicket most often than not.
Though the boundaries were rare, the scoreboard was kept ticking over with well-placed single and double by the pair as they put on an unbeaten 129 in 41 overs. The way Strauss played Harbhajan was really pleasant to watch and by the time Zaheer came back for his second spell, the pair was well settled. Zaheer tried all sorts of trick up his sleeves but could not dislodge them. Harbhajan was just beginning to lose his cool when Tendulkar wisely decided to talk to the disturbed bowler to try to calm him down. Sehwag was introduced but there was no magic from him this time around. Mishra was called to bowl the final over and he tried his best to pay back his captain the faith showed on him but could not.
With England almost shutting the door on the face on India, it looks like a tall-order for the Indian team to come back into this match. Day four hold’s many exciting possibilities and it promises to be interesting.