Those who attended the second day of the Fourth Test in Nagpur will have a story to tell for the ages. This is rarely true of many days in which 218 runs are scored in 90 overs while nine wickets fall, for which the polite judgement would be that it was on the slightly tedious side of routine, or for a generation reared on Twenty20 and Nintendo, a one-way ticket to Dullsville.
But the story to be told is that they were in on the start of something special and the end of something extraordinary. Joe Root of Yorkshire and England was announcing his arrival as Sachin Tendulkar of Mumbai, India and the world, was signalling his departure.
It was almost, though not quite, ancillary that England, partly on the back of the individual contributions of this pair, chiselled a position from which they could now see rather than sense a significant series victory. India finished the second day on 87 for 4, 243 runs behind.
At 2-1 down in the series they left the field last night aware that they urgently required a spark of inspiration, a bravura intervention to avoid losing their first Test rubber at home for eight years. They probably needed Tendulkar to be 21 again.
In the early part of the day Root made 73 of the most unglamorous runs imaginable but they were also precious, to nearly the same degree. He was largely responsible for ensuring England’s rehabilitation from 139 for five when potential ruin lurked.
In the evening, Tendulkar was one of three batsmen to fall to Jimmy Anderson, his dismissal the most poignant. Anderson was resplendent again, creating movement and therefore mischief in two spells.
It was the ninth time he had dismissed Tendulkar in Tests, more than any other bowler, and it is a tribute to his potency to suggest that he might have caused trouble for him when he was in his pomp rather than in a twilight that is in danger of becoming sad and prolonged.
England’s satisfaction with their total on a pitch that remained sluggish and can only wear must have grown by the time proceedings finished. If it was, by consensus, a difficult pitch to get out on, the rider is worth adding that the England of earlier this year, of a few weeks ago would have somehow managed.
This was not a mammoth total but it was one that befitted the conditions and the circumstances. Root did much but he could not have done it alone and the mature half centuries of Matt Prior and Graeme Swann, seniority exuding from every pore, were invaluable.
Root simply looked like a senior player which he now has an opportunity of becoming. Perhaps that is what the selection panel saw in him when they chose him from nowhere for this decisive match. He rarely played a false shot and he faced 229 balls from which he had a chance to do when he mis-drove the 230th back to the undeserving leg spinner Priyush Chawla.
Of India’s four spinners, Chawla was the least impressive but he finished with four wickets, also ending Swann’s lovely innings when the batsman obliged him with an unnecessary reverse sweep. It was the second time in the series that Swann has been out holding the bat the wrong way round and presumably he might now get the point of not playing it.
Root took his partnership with Prior for the sixth wicket to 102 and then he and Swann added another 60 for the eighth. There was some speculation about whether the total was sufficient and what a player of Virender Sehwag’s illustrious attacking skills might do to it.
This lasted as long as the third ball of the first over, bowled by Anderson. Sehwag played forward early, the ball swung in late, then straightened on pitching, beating the batsman on the outside edge and uprooting the middle stump.
Anderson ran exultantly for 20 yards to his left until he embraced Kevin Pietersen who had been posted on the boundary. This is not a sight you would have put money on ever seeing two months ago.
Pietersen might have suggested an early inswinger to Sehwag, Anderson was therefore appropriately grateful. This was reintegration on full public display and the thought occurred that it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
It took England awhile to take the second wicket and it was not legitimate when it came. Ian Bell took a spectacular swooping catch to his right at short leg after Chetashwar Pujara appeared to prod it off bat and pad. Replays showed that the ball had grazed the Pujara forearm, then his pad but not at any point his bat.
Any decent decision review system would have reprieved Pujara, who looked as solid as he did in the first two Tests of the series. India, of course, refuse to use reviews, decent or not. Pujara walked, muttering the while.
The advent of Tendulkar brought Anderson back into the attack as soon as drinks were taken. His fifth ball found the great man on his crease, not quite getting forward as the ball came in and took the inside edge on its way to the stumps.
In six innings in this series Tendulkar has made one fifty and been out for 13, 8, 8, 5 and 2 in the others. In his last 17 Test innings he has been bowled seven times. It is the form of a normal 39-year-old. Root is 21 and will never be Tendulkar but his is the future now.
Timeline: How day two of the Fourth Test unfolded
Matt Prior and Joe Root return to the crease for England with the tourists on 199 for 5. A single brings up the 200 as England look to push on and secure the series.
Wicket, Prior b Ashwin 57
Prior prods forward to defend but plays down the wrong line and is bowled. Tim Bresnan. lbw, is out for 0 in the next over.
Wicket, Root c&b Chawla 73
An excellent debut knock from Root comes to an end as he advances to offer Piyush Chawla a simple return catch. England on 302 for 8.
England 330 all out
Graeme Swann smashes a straight six off Chawla before falling lbw next ball trying to reverse-sweep. James Anderson is caught brilliantly at short leg off Chawla five runs later
Wicket, Sehwag b Anderson 0
James Anderson castles Virender Sehwag in the first over, the explosive opener losing his middle stump. India are 1 for 1.
Wicket, Pujara c Bell b Swann 26
Cheteshwar Pujara is caught by Ian Bell at short leg. Replays suggest the ball nicked arm and not glove – if only DRS was in use. India 59 for 2.
Wicket, Tendulkar b Anderson 2
Sachin Tendulkar is undone by an inswinger that keeps low and nicks inside edge before clattering into middle stump. The Little Master’s poor form continues; India 64 for 3.
Wicket, Gambhir c Prior b Anderson 37
Brilliant again from Anderson. The 30-year-old gets his man with an out-swinger. The hosts are 71 for 4.
Stumps; India 87-4
A great day for England, who are well on top in this match, posting a strong first innings before knocking over India’s top order cheaply.