In the evening sunshine it was looking decidedly gloomy for England. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, Stuart Broad arrived. Had he turned up on a white charger, twirling a lance in one hand and a sword in the other, his intervention could not have been more dramatic.
Broad took five wickets in 16 balls, including a hat-trick, without conceding a run. India, who had been making serene progress throughout the second day of the Second Test, lost their last six wickets for 21 runs.
Less than a fortnight ago, the concept of dropping Broad seemed mildly attractive. He was as short of form as of wickets. If his deeds in the First Test, in which he took seven wickets and scored a crucial 74 not out, provided an adequate response, this raised the bar to the roof. On the first day, Broad made 64 in horrid conditions when England were on the verge of collapse. Now, with India in firm control, he bowled one of the unforgettable spells and became the 12th England player to take a hat-trick, the first at Trent Bridge.
It was in fact the best spell by an England bowler since Andy Caddick took five West Indian wickets in 14 balls at Headingley in 2000.
So, instead of having a decisive, possibly match-winning, series-levelling advantage, India still have plenty of work to do. In a low-scoring match a first-innings lead of 67 may yet prove to be quite enough, but nothing is certain.
If England can carve out a lead today, batting in the fourth innings may not evoke immediate comparisons to beds of roses. They were 24 for 1 at the close, having lost Alastair Cook, who is seeing the other side of the opener's coin. Ian Bell came in to join Andrew Strauss because Jonathan Trott had damaged a shoulder in the field, although X-rays showed no bone damage.
Broad's magnificent burst eclipsed, unfairly perhaps, Rahul Dravid's hundred, an innings which typified all that is glorious about his game. From start to finish he exuded style and class. It was his 34th Test hundred, his fifth in England, his second of the series. It took a little more than five hours, 209 balls and included 13 fours, more or less equating to his hundred last week in the first game (202 balls, 15 fours). You could set your clock by him.
But just when it seemed that Dravid was once more taking India to a safe haven from which they could not lose, showing why they are ranked as the No 1 Test team and making England's claims to the position seem faintly hollow, along came Broad – armed not with sword and lance but with the second new ball.
His first and most important wicket was that of Yuvraj Singh, who had shared a fifth-wicket partnership of 128 with Dravid. Spared when he was only four by Kevin Pietersen's culpable drop at gully (off Broad), Yuvraj had assembled a confident innings as the pitch seemed to shed the demons it previously exhibited.
Immediately after tea, the pair had done much as they liked, dismantling Graeme Swann in a way that has not happened to him in his Test career. This may have been because of Swann's injury to his non-bowling hand, still an important component of a bowler's action, but if not there may be trouble ahead.
Broad found one to lift at Yuvraj and follow him just enough to make him play. Matt Prior did the rest. It was in Broad's next over that he made his little bit of history, which seemed neatly sequential since he had been the last victim of the most recent Test hat-trick, achieved by Peter Siddle in Brisbane last year. First he had MS Dhoni, playing with bat away from body, caught at second slip.
Harbhajan Singh was beaten by one that cut back and given out leg before. The ball would have hit all right and although replays showed that he had got an inside edge before the ball struck his pad, there was a sense of poetic justice for England.
India, in their dislike of predictive technology, had ensured there would be no review of lbw appeals in this series. Harbhajan was still presumably pointing to his bat in annoyance when Praveen Kumar had his stumps disturbed, barely pushing forward at a fast, full ball from Broad.
The crowd was jubilant and Broad, as is the modern way, raised the ball in triumph. All of this must have disturbed the otherwise imperturbable Dravid, because in the next over he attempted to carve Tim Bresnan to third man and was caught on the boundary.
Bresnan deserved this, since earlier in the piece he had bowled a relentless spell of seven overs for only five runs without reward. Fittingly, however, it was Broad who finished matters off when Ishant Sharma prodded one high to short leg, where Ian Bell made a difficult catch above his head look deceptively easy.
How different this was to events as they had previously unfolded. England had competed well for large parts but India had made the most of improved circumstances.
VVS Laxman, who had started the day at the crease with Dravid, was a joy to behold. Then, as so often before in England, he had failed to go on and was undone by Bresnan.
Shortly after lunch, England soon accounted for Sachin Tendulkar and Suresh Raina. Tendulkar played an over-ambitious slashing cut which gave Broad his first wicket, and the world continues to wait for his 100th international hundred. Raina played a loose shot to be caught at point.
Had Yuvraj gone when he should have done, with India still 78 behind, who knows what might have happened? It was an inexplicable drop by Pietersen and not the first time England have been at fault in the past fortnight. This is already some series.
Handful of England hat-tricks
There have been five hat-tricks by England bowlers in the last 54 years:
S C J Broad v India, Trent Bridge 2011 (M S Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, P Kumar)
R J Sidebottom v New Zealand, Hamilton 2007-08 (S P Fleming, M S Sinclair, J D P Oram)
M J Hoggard v West Indies, Barbados 2003-04 (R R Sarwan, S Chanderpaul, R O Hinds)
D Gough v Australia, Sydney 1998-99 (I A Healy, S C G MacGill, C R Miller)
D G Cork v West Indies, Old Trafford 1995 (R B Richardson, J R Murray, C L Hooper)
Previous hat-trick taken by P J Loader v West Indies at Headingley in 1957 (J D C Goddard, S Ramadhin, R Gilchrist.)
Trent Bridge scoreboard
India won toss
India: First innings (Overnight: 24-1)
R Dravid c Cook b Bresnan 117/371/15/0
V V S Laxman c Prior b Bresnan 54/150/10/0
S R Tendulkar c Strauss b Broad 16/33/3/0
S K Raina c Morgan b Anderson 12/29/2/0
Yuvraj Singh c Prior b Broad 62/141/10/0
*†M S Dhoni c Anderson b Broad 5/8/1/0
Harbhajan Singh lbw b Broad 0/1/0/0
P S Kumar b Broad 0/1/0/0
I Sharma c Bell b Broad 3/12/0/0
S Sreesanth not out 7/13/1/0
Extras (b4, lb3, w4, nb1) 12
Total (91.1 overs) 288
Fall 1-0, 2-93, 3-119, 4-139, 5-267, 6-273, 7-273, 8-273, 9-273.
Bowling Anderson 26-8-80-2; Broad 24.1-8-46-6; Bresnan 21-6-48-2; Trott 4-1-18-0; Swann 12-0-76-0; Pietersen 4-0-13-0.
England: Second innings
*A J Strauss 6/34/0/0
A N Cook c Yuvraj Singh b Sharma 5/11/1/0
I R Bell 9/21/1/0
Extras (b4) 4
Total (for 1, 11 overs) 24
To bat: I J L Trott, K P Pietersen, I R Bell, E J G Morgan, †M J Prior, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson.
Bowling P Kumar 4-1-9-0; I Sharma 5-3-2-0; S Sreesanth 2-0-2-0.
Umpires Asad Rauf (Pak) and M Erasmus (SA).
England trail by 43 runs with 9 wickets remaining.Reuse content