England vs India fourth Test: Ian Bell and Joe Root keep England on top but rain threatens hopes of victory - Cricket - Sport - The Independent

England vs India fourth Test: Ian Bell and Joe Root keep England on top but rain threatens hopes of victory

Play abandoned: England 237-6 v India 152, day two

Old Trafford

As England were saying before being so rudely interrupted today, they are making their way back. The state of play against India remains intriguingly poised but the advantage and the momentum – the latter the most important component in modern sport – is with the home side.

Only 36 overs were possible on the second day of the fourth Test. Three wickets were taken, 124 runs were added, 67 of them after the fall of the third when what was billed as a passing shower became a deluge. It was time enough to learn a thing or two about some players on both sides.

Valiant attempts were made by the groundstaff to ensure that play resumed but after two hours they came to naught. The drenched outfield at one end of the ground, laid with new grass earlier this year, was cleared of most of the surface water but it was still dangerously slippery under foot. In trying so hard with the machinery available, difficulties may have been stored up for later in the match.

Most of the Brian Statham End was a sea of churned mud which will need some tender loving care without the addition of any more rain. Only cricket, even in the 21st century, is capable of creating this sort of kerfuffle. In the event, officialdom might have been wiser to call off play when the ground was a veritable lake 20 minutes after play was initially suspended.

India were doubtless much more satisfied than they had been on the first day, and in edging the only full session broke a losing run of 16. But it was not quite enough to alter the balance of power and when the close came under blue skies at 6pm with the outfield having failed to dry sufficiently,  England were 85 runs ahead.

Perhaps they could sense the intervention of the cricketing gods. A year ago, England retained the Ashes on this ground, but Australia were denied a victory which would have crucially reduced their arrears only by rain. England could seal retention of the Pataudi Trophy with a win here but this delay and rain forecast for Saturday and Sunday allied to potential difficulties with the outfield may preclude that.

For the second day in succession there was some delightful fast bowling on view, this time from India. Skilful practitioners were responsible for both England dismissals.

Ian Bell, who had started the day in pristine fashion, suddenly found himself exposed by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Perilously close to touching one away swinger, he was drawn into the shot next ball, saw it move late and edged it behind. Perhaps Bell could have left it but such balls in the corridor outside off stump act like a magnet.

More worrying was the dismissal of Moeen Ali. There is no doubt that mostly he looks the part in international cricket but as a batsman he is trading on his excellent rearguard hundred at Leeds in the second Test against Sri Lanka.

He has been dismissed a mite too casually on occasion and has also shown a lack of ability to deal with the short, fast ball. There was a classic example of the latter today, though in this case it was the bouncer that led to his departure rather than caused it.

Moeen worked himself into a dreadful tangle in trying to hook Varun Aaron but he was both late and uncertain in executing the stroke. It looked inept. Next ball, Moeen waited on the back foot in anticipation of another short one but Aaron purveyed something of much fuller length. The batsman played all round it and was bowled. If it was a model case of preparing the ground by the bowler, it was still a batsman being taken for a sucker.

It is certain by now that Moeen has rapidly improved his method against the bumper, particularly from round the wicket. Mitchell Johnson is in town for the Ashes next year and, watching the batsman’s present predicament, he will be pawing at the ground in lip-smacking expectation.

Moeen’s most effective response may be to eschew all attacking strokes against the short ball. It worked for Steve Waugh, the indomitable Australian batsman, after he succumbed to it a time or two early in his career.

At 140 for 5, still behind, England needed a period of consolidation. It was provided by Joe Root, who has made vast progress this season in the middle order, and Jos Buttler, who is in only his second match but might have been in his 52nd. Root played the percentages to precision and left immaculately.

Buttler’s reputation has been built on getting on with it but he took his time here, realising what England expected of him. They looked to be emphasising their control of the match when the expected shower came at 2.15pm. It did not pass, it stayed and it grew into a Mancunian storm.

The drainage system at Old Trafford was relaid at a cost of £600,000 five years ago, and while that functions with admiral efficiency, it could not overcome the new grass laid at the Statham End last winter. Instead of seeping through quickly, the water stood. The ground staff, in line with modern etiquette, had to be seen to be doing something and did it with vigour. Only in cricket.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week