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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?