Pedestrian progress of a bygone age may work final day magic
Wednesday 22 March 2006
Anybody seeking to persuade the unconvinced about the perpetual fascination of Test cricket would be wise not to call as evidence yesterday's proceedings at Wankhede Stadium.
Such was the torpidity of England's attempt to form a bridgehead from which they might push for a series-levelling victory that it was possible to begin admiring the architectural merit of the arena. Since it is possibly the least aesthetically pleasing in the world - and that includes Headingley - this was going some.
The day yielded 178 runs from 85.4 overs, a fraction over two runs an over. England's second innings, which had begun the previous evening, totalled 191 runs in 92.4 overs. Andrew Flintoff scored 50 from 156 balls, his slowest fifty. In the overall history of Test cricket this was hardly pedestrian. Indeed, the innings was merely the 45th slowest of all played by England. However, 42 of them were played more than 20 years ago.
Things have moved on. And to show precisely how, it is worth recalling that at Bridgetown in 1954, England scored 181 in 150 overs against West Indies, with a side including some of the greatest batsmen and swashbucklers of the age, Len Hutton, Denis Compton, Peter May and Tom Graveney.
Four runs an over has become the norm over the past decade; the run rate yesterday belonged to a past when for some reason, spectators expected no more.
Duncan Fletcher betrayed some amused perplexity when observations were made about the attritional rate, the lowest by England since they failed to save a Test at Galle in 2001.
"You've got to be careful," he said. "In Pakistan late last year we were accused of trying to score too quickly and showing no patience. Now we've showed patience and you question whether we've shown too much. So there is a happy medium."
Fletcher had a reasonable point. England probably lost the series in Pakistan because in the first Test at Multan they tried to charge to victory instead of reaching it by steady accumulation. They were not about to do the same. Up came the shutters.
The intention had been to leave India a target of around 360 from 120 overs instead of 313 off 100. It might have worked in the match's favour. The grim fourth day had the potential to set up a fifth to make anybody recognise the greatness of Test cricket.
Ball of the day
* Tail-enders often struggle with leg-spinners and James Anderson had no idea which way the ball was going to turn when he attempted to flick Anil Kumble through the leg side. The ball was a googly and it clipped the back of his bat and lobbed to slip.
Moment of the day
* Harbhajan Singh showed his team-mates how to make chances count with a one-handed catch to dismiss Paul Collingwood. In celebration he ran half way to the boundary with his team in tow.
Shot of the day
* It has to be Owais Shah's pull shot off Sri Sreesanth. The correct shot should have been a forward defensive yet Shah whipped it through wide mid-on for four. The held-high follow-through on bended knee looked the mirror image of Brian Lara.
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