Cricket / First Test: England's resistance lost in the haze: India's trio of modest spinners are relentless in exposing the technical shortcomings of the tourists' top-order batsmen

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The Independent Online
YOU could boil a kettle with an Indian spinning finger here at the moment, but as far as England's digit is concerned, extraction is now the primary requirement. Yesterday morning's Statesman cautiously invited its readers to remember 'Waterloo, El Alamein and the Battle of Britain', but in terms of a history lesson, all England could deliver was something closer to King Canute.

If this is not a match that England will care to look back on with fond memories, it is none the less uplifting to know that Test matches can still be won by spinners. England's prospects of doing so were not, of course, enhanced by leaving two-thirds of their complement spinning nothing more than the occasional yarn to each other inside the pavilion.

Even so, the main reason for Calcutta doubling a horn and klaxon decibel count that, even on a normal day, is enough to perforate an eardrum, was the England batsmen's overall ineptitude against modest practitioners on a slow turner. If the tourists' four- seamer selection was based on previous evidence of India's batsmen playing spin with their eyes closed, England's batsmen unhappily managed this rather more literally.

Of the 237.3 overs that India bowled here, 205.1 of them were delivered by the spinners, which, even allowing for the fact that India is also the world's largest bureaucracy as well as democracy, is almost as staggering a statistic as the number of sub-committee members required to run the Calcutta Cricket Club.

There are (with their photos beaming out from five pages of the match programme to prove it) 89 of them, which was precisely 10 more than the number of runs India required to win after bowling England out for a second time midway between stumps and tea on the fourth day. By the close, this target was down to 43 with all 10 wickets remaining.

The bonus points from yesterday were provided by Mike Gatting, whose 81 had orchestrated England into a position only 16 runs behind with seven wickets remaining until he perished (as he had flourished) to the sweep shot, Graeme Hick, who for once looked more like a million dollars than a five-rupee note, and Ian Salisbury, whose resistance with the bat in this game spanned five and a quarter hours.

The minus points, however, were the curious decision to send in Salisbury a good two places lower than his first-innings effort warranted, further evidence that Robin Smith against spin offers a serious claim to Devon Malcolm's No 11 spot, and last but not least, the suspicion that the chairman of the England committee has been wandering about in the sun for too long without a hat. Ted Dexter's curious intimation that England's problems are largely down to Calcutta's smog suggests that he is having a good deal of difficulty seeing anything through it.

'The players,' he said, 'have quite reasonably talked about levels of pollution, and how it has affected their health and performance. In this respect, we have been under-prepared.' You can see it now. Forget Lilleshall; before the next tour of India, nets will be held behind closed garage doors with the car engine running.

Dexter has now asked a local chest specialist to supply him with relative pollution levels (eg, how does Calcutta compare with Manchester in the cough and splutter league?) before adding that there was no need to worry in any case because the team had been told there were no long-term effects.

'There is no reason for us not to perform flat out for the rest of the tour,' he said, before adding, to general coughing, spluttering and tears streaming from the eyes which had nothing to do with Calcutta 'today was a magnificent batting performance'. Heaven help us if England's batting ever becomes no better than very good.

'Smith and Hick battled hard like good 'uns,' he went on, apparently unaware that Smith had spent 74 balls (for eight runs) hopping around like a man barefoot on broken bottles, and concluded: 'This was a good education. It seems to me that this is one of the most difficult batting pitches we will face.'

Dexter can say that again (and probably will if England lose the next Test by an innings) in that going 1-0 down in this part of the world is a recipe for Indian Test match groundsmen to start preparing their pitches with embalming fluid. Madras and Bombay? Forget the sandwiches. Bring along a good book and a few knitting patterns.

In this match, England discovered far too late that it is fatal to bat negatively against the Indian spinners, and for all Gatting's panache yesterday, there was no way back from that first innings debacle. Once Gatting was out, dragging an attempted sweep on to his leg stump, England lost their last six wickets for 94, even though India required Kapil Dev and the new ball to finish them off.

Were it not for the fact that there is no extra half-hour facility in India, this game would have ended in four days, although the fourth day still ended with the familiar sight of Navjot Sidhu carting an England spinner (Salisbury) for six.

Before this match, India had played 25 Tests without beating anyone bar Sri Lanka in Chandighar, although, remarkably, all those other 24 were played away from home. The chairman of the Indian selectors has not said so, but they presumably owe this long run of failure to the lack of smog.

SCOREBOARD

(Fourth day: India won toss)

INDIA - First Innings 371 (M Azharuddin 182, S R Tendulkar 50).

ENGLAND - First Innings 163.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

(Overnight: 128-2)

M W Gatting b Chauhan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .81

191 min, 165 balls, 12 fours, 1 six

R A Smith c More b Chauhan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

59 min, 74 balls, 1 four

G A Hick lbw b Venkatapathy Raju. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

55 min, 43 balls, 3 fours, 1 six

N H Fairbrother c sub b Kumble. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

125 min, 113 balls, 1 four

C C Lewis c Amre b Venkatapathy Raju. . . . . . . . . . . .16

44 min, 44 balls, 3 fours

P W Jarvis lbw b Venkatapathy Raju. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

18 min, 20 balls

I D K Salisbury c More b Kapil Dev. . . . . . . . . . . . . .26

138 min, 109 balls, 4 fours

J P Taylor not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

87 min, 91 balls, 2 fours

D E Malcolm lbw b Kapil Dev. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

1 min, 1 ball

Extras (lb13 nb2). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

Total (460 min, 137.2 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .286

Fall: 1-48 (Gooch), 2-111 (Stewart), 3-145 (Smith), 4-192 (Gatting), 5-192 (Hick), 6-216 (Lewis), 7-234 (Jarvis), 8-254 (Fairbrother),

9-286 (Salisbury), 10-286 (Malcolm).

Bowling: Kapil Dev 8.2-5-12-2 (4-2-7-0) (4.2-3-5- 2); Prabhakar 9-4-26-0 (nb3) (4-0-20-0) (5-4-6- 0); Chauhan 45-17-79-2 (1-0-1-0) (6-0-30-0) (19-8-23-2) (8-3-15-0) (8-4-6-0) (3-2-4-0); Venkatapathy Raju 35-9-80-3 (9-1-25-0) (5-2-4-0) (19-5-50-3) (2-1-1-0); Kumble 40-16-76-3 (18-6- 31-2) (9-3-28-0) (1-0-3-0) (8-6-5-1) (4-1-9-0).

Progress: 150: 201 min, 60.4 overs. 200: 270 min, 81.3 overs. Lunch: 205-5 (Fairbrother 2, Lewis 11) 85 overs. 250: 348 min, 104.3 overs. Tea: 261-8 (Salisbury 16, Taylor 3) in 122 overs. New ball after 132.3 overs at 285-8. Innings closed: 3.19pm.

INDIA - Second Innings

M Prabhakar not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

54 min, 34 balls

N S Sidhu not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20

54 min, 39 balls, 2 fours, 1 six

Extras (lb3 nb1). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

Total (for 0, 54 min, 12 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36

To bat: V G Kambli, S R Tendulkar, * M Azharuddin, P K Amre, Kapil Dev, K S More, A Kumble, Venkatapathy Raju, R K Chauhan.

Bowling (to date): Malcolm 6-1-16-0 (2-1-5-0) (4-0-11-0); Jarvis 2-1-1-0; Taylor 3-1-9-0 (nb1); Salisbury 1-0-7-0 (one spell each).

Umpires: P D Reporter and S Venkataraghavan.

(Photograph omitted)

West Indies win,

A curious cricket club, page 29

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