England delight after they show some fight

Huge stand keeps India in box seat but bowlers stick bravely to their task and spinner has a story to tell grandchildren
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The Independent Online

England's day, but it is India who remain in control of the Second Test and the series. India's sizeable first-innings total of 453 has all but ensured Mahendra Singh Dhoni's fast-improving side will win the two-Test series, which would move them into second place in the world Test rankings behind Australia, but England's bowlers can take great comfort from the way they have competed in this contest.

At lunch, with Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid unbeaten on 167 and 124 respectively, and with India on 302 for 1, it appeared as if the hosts were about to embarrass England's determined but tiring bowling attack. But rather than fade a way ignominiously Kevin Pietersen's side continued to compete, and their endeavour was rewarded with nine wickets.

Graeme Swann claimed three of them, including that of Sachin Tendulkar for 11. The dismissal supplied Swann with a moment of utter joy. England's off-spinner may never get the chance to bowl at Tendulkar again, but you can bet he will talk about this wicket more often than any other in his career. Over the years its legend will grow in the Swann household, because even in his dotage Tendulkar's scalp has greater kudos than any other in world cricket.

"Anyone would enjoy getting Sachin out," said a weary but chirpy Swann. "It is still very early in my Test career so it is a thrill to play against a very good Indian team that contains so many good players. But there is no getting away from the fact that he is the number one wicket in their team. His is the one you prize more than any other and I am just glad I could get it here. I got a bit of stick from my brother last week after the First Test. He said I should have got Sachin out on a turning pitch, so I was delighted to get him.

"We are delighted with the way things went. At lunch we were looking at each other wondering where the next wicket was going to come from. But fortunately it was a light-hearted dressing room, laughing in the face of adversity, and the approach seemed to work for us.

"After last week in Chennai there are two ways you can go. You can either feel sorry for yourself and get down in the dumps or have a laugh at yourself. Some would say the English way is to be miserable about it, but this particular team happily choose to look on the bright side of things. Sometimes in cricket you have to accept that the guy is going to play well at the other end. We hung in there and in the hour after lunch everything went our way for the first time in the game."

Andrew Flintoff was magnificent again, taking three wickets too. He bowled his quickest spell of the match between lunch and tea, displaying a wholehearted approach that can only be applauded. The wicket of VVS Laxman was set up through a stunning piece of bowling, and he should have had Yuvraj Singh caught in the gully shortly after, but Alastair Cook dropped one of the easiest catches you will see.

Had Cook taken it, India would have been reduced to 347 for 5, and England would have harboured hopes of dismissing the hosts for under 400. Such a score would still have left England with a great deal to do – with Pietersen nursing a broken rib it is difficult to see which batsmen are going to score quickly enough to put India under pressure – but it would have meant Dhoni's team had wasted the excellent 314-run partnership between Gambhir and Dravid.

Gambhir did not look as comfortable as on the first day, starting in murky light against aggressive bowling. On 142 he reached 1,000 Test runs in 2008, a magnificent achievement in only his eighth Test of the year. But then his concentration began to disintegrate and he began to slog. The left-hander did not attempt a sweep shot on the opening day, but twice he slog-swept Swann to the boundary. Living dangerously, he sliced a cut at the luckless James Anderson over gully for four too. His good fortune ended on 179 when he tried to hoist Swann back over his head but only managed to lob a catch to Cook at backward point.

The pedestrian manner in which Dravid batted on day one led to him receiving criticism from many Indian pundits, who accused him of being selfish. He was far more proactive yesterday, especially after posting a career-saving 26th Test hundred. His reaction at reaching the landmark was muted and he had a determined, slightly angry, look on his face.

At times he rode his luck, and his vigil ended when he toed a hit over the top off Swann to Monty Panesar at mid-off. The 34-year-old has had a desperate year, scoring a mere 268 runs at an average of just over 20. It is 19 innings since he last scored a hundred and he had only struck one in 40 previous attempts. It is why his place in the team has been under threat.

"I am definitely relieved," admitted Dravid. "It is natural that there will be scrutiny over my performance and that people will want to speculate. And rightly so, because I haven't had a good year. If there are any positives to come out of being in a bad slump it is the number of people who really want you to do well. A lot of people who had no need to contact me have, to offer their support. I feel as though a number of people have gone through the journey with me, shared my ups and downs, and in some ways that is even more important than the runs I have scored."

Amazingly, Tendulkar never looked at ease. Perhaps the emotion of Monday's win in Chennai has taken its toll, but it was still a surprise to see him miss an attempted sweep at Swann and be given out lbw. Flintoff then trapped Laxman in front after roughing him up with an over or two of well- directed short-pitched bowling. The wicket meant that India had lost four for the addition of 19 runs in 11 overs.

Yuvraj and Dhoni ensured India did not fall away meekly, but each lost his wicket just when he seemed set to accelerate. Panesar had Yuvraj caught close to the wicket, while a deserving Anderson had the charging Dhoni taken by Owais Shah at midwicket.

Scoreboard

India won toss

India – First innings (Overnight 179-1)

G Gambhir c Cook b Swann 179

(463 min, 348 balls, 25 fours, 1 six)

R Dravid c Panesar b Swann 136

(472 min, 328 balls, 19 fours)

S R Tendulkar lbw b Swann 11

(47 min, 26 balls, 1 four)

V V S Laxman lbw b Flintoff 0

(36 min, 24 balls)

Yuvraj Singh c Prior b Panesar 27

(84 min, 66 balls, 3 fours, 1 six)

*†M S Dhoni c sub (O A Shah) b Anderson 29

(103 min, 73 balls, 3 fours)

Harbhajan Singh c Swann b Panesar 24

(32 min, 21 balls, 2 fours, 1 six)

Zaheer Khan b Flintoff 7

(38 min, 21 balls, 1 four)

A Mishra b Flintoff 23

(48 min, 31 balls, 1 four, 1 six)

I Sharma not out 1

(15 min, 15 balls)

Extras (b5, lb5, nb 6) 16

Total (678 min, 158.2 overs) 453

Fall: 1-6 (Sehwag), 2-320 (Gambhir), 3-329 (Dravid), 4-337 (Tendulkar), 5-339 (Laxman), 6-379 (Yuvraj Singh), 7-418 (Dhoni), 8-418 (Harbhajan Singh), 9-446 (Zaheer Khan), 10-453 (Mishra).

Bowling: Anderson 32-5-84-1 (nb2), Broad 26-9-84-1, Flintoff 30.2-10-54-3 (nb4), Panesar 23-2-89-2, Swann 45-11-122-3, Collingwood 2-0-10-0.

Gambhir 50: 129 min, 101 balls, 7 fours. 100: 272 min, 214 balls, 11 fours, 1 six. 150: 431 min, 322 balls, 21 fours, 1 six.

Dravid 50: 207 min, 151 balls, 6 fours. 100: 375 min, 261 balls, 13 fours.

England: A J Strauss, A N Cook, I R Bell, *K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, A Flintoff, †M J Prior, G P Swann, S C J Broad, J M Anderson, M S Panesar.

Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pak) and D J Harper (Aus).

TV replay umpire: S L Shastri.

Match referee: J J Crowe (NZ).

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