The denizens of this great city might have disagreed but it was worth the price of admission yesterday to see the ball. The ball from Monty Panesar that bowled Sachin Tendulkar, the ball that was pitched, speared in almost, on leg, and then turned raspingly at right angles past the bat and hit off stump.
Tendulkar, or the Prince of India, as Monty so lovingly called him, is 39 now so concessions may be made. But when he was 29 or 19 this might have been too good for him. It might have been too good for anyone, it was the left arm spinner’s classic delivery.
Panesar, in ecstasy at the time as he was enveloped in the arms of his comrades, could not quite recapture that mood in describing it later. “Obviously the moment of the day for me was the Prince of India, Sachin Tendulkar,” he said at his poetic peak. “I was absolutely delighted with that.
“They prepared a pitch that’s going to turn and bounce and against world class cricketers I probably need every help that there is in the pitch to get them out so that obviously helped me. That’s the kind of ball you have to bowl to these top players to get them out. They’re very, very good players in their own conditions.”
By Panesar’s own description the recovery from 119-5 to 266-6 put momentum into India’s innings. “But I don’t think they expected us to dominate first two sessions like that,” he said. And Sachin can never have expected a ball like that.
Three balls earlier, Panesar had conveyed a full toss that Tendulkar dismissivly persuaded away for four through the leg side. The ball before, it transpired, his action went awry and it spurred him to improvement, not wishing to let down Mushtaq Ahmed, the England spin coach with whom Panesar has spent hour upon hour in this tour.
“Over the last few practice sessions I’ve been working a lot with Mushy on trying to get my action right,” he said. “The previous ball I got my action slightly wrong, I dropped it. Next ball I wanted to make sure I got all the processes working. I seemed to get my action right, got my fingers nicely round the ball and it came out nicely.”
To describe perfection as nice is perfectly endearing but as a soundbite it lacked something. Panesar was happy to be playing again as England now admit he ought to have done in the First Test. He said there was “a slight disappointment” that he did not play. On the scale of his ball description that probably meant he was as mad as hell and was not going to take it anymore.