With Alastair Cook’s status as England captain as vulnerable as it has ever been, it was only fitting that the man to push him even deeper into crisis should be Ravindra Jadeja.
It was Jadeja’s row with Anderson in the pavilion at Trent Bridge during the first Investec Test that has left the England pace bowler facing a possible Test ban, with the preliminary hearing into the incident due to begin tomorrow.
Jadeja’s fearless half-century put England on the back foot and left Paul Farbrace, the home side’s assistant coach, as the latest man forced to defend Cook, who is without a Test century since last May. Now, on a turning pitch, Jadeja has the chance to strike a potentially decisive blow to England’s leader.
Asked whether the clash with Anderson had galvanised Jadeja, team-mate Murali Vijay said: “I think so. The intent [in his innings] was special so obviously it’s helping us.”
Cook had ground his way to 22 in more than two hours before he was the fourth England wicket to fall. The case for retaining him as captain grows ever weaker and it is possible that, should England lose this Test, he might step down before the third Test at Southampton, which starts on Sunday.
It might be difficult to believe, but Farbrace insists it is business as usual. “Nothing has changed whatsoever and the situation is not affecting him,” he said. “We all want him to score runs. We are very much behind him, as is everyone in team.
“He is aware that he needs to score runs and that is what he wants to do for the team. It sounds like I’m trying to boost him up, but I’ve been impressed by the way he copes. He is starting to develop a good relationship with [coach] Peter Moores, he is unflappable and he speaks well to the team. There is no question that he is our leader and we want him to do well and score runs. That is the absolute key for Alastair.
“As for the senior players, you always want more from them and you want people contributing, but their contribution at practice has been fantastic. I can’t praise them highly enough.”
Chasing 319 for victory, England lost Sam Robson early before the partnership between Cook and Gary Ballance yielded 58. Then came the collapse, as Mohammed Shami removed Ballance and Ishant Sharma dismissed Ian Bell and Cook. The home side had lost three wickets for two runs in the space of 20 deliveries.
Joe Root and Moeen Ali guided the side to the close, at which England were 105 for 4, needing an unlikely 214 more runs to reach the highest successful fourth-innings target by an England side at the home of cricket.
At the start of the day, England knew that a solid bowling performance would give them an excellent chance of victory and would have eased the pressure on their struggling captain.
Yet after removing MS Dhoni, Stuart Binny and Vijay to leave India 235 for 7 – a lead of 211 – Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar counter-attacked boldly and England’s bowlers were unable to tie them down.
Kumar was dropped, crucially, by Root when he had made only two – he would score 50 more – while Jadeja struck an unorthodox but brutally effective 68 from 57 deliveries.
When Jadeja was out, it brought to an end a partnership of 99 from 100 deliveries with Kumar. It looked like a stand that would win the match, especially when England were so meek in the afternoon and the evening.
Vijay said: “When Jadeja came in, I could feel the energy about him and I could sense that he was going to do something special. The intent was there. He was positive from ball one and we needed a person like that.
“The pitch is doing a lot for the spinner [Jadeja] which is good for us. We have to hope it stays the same on day five.”