Yuvraj Singh may be a "pie chucker" in the eyes of Kevin Pietersen but he can bat. Yuvraj's unbeaten, 40-ball innings of 39, yes 39, was the highlight of a drab day of Test cricket here in Mohali yesterday. Having traded heavy blows for the best part of a fortnight, the batsmen of India and England yesterday conspired to score just 154 runs in 61 overs. The fare was rarely inspirational and it felt as though both teams were content simply to see the match out before putting their feet up for Christmas.
England's last four batsmen added just 20 runs to the team's overnight score on the fourth morning, reaching 302 before being bowled out, a total that gave India a first-innings lead of 151. But England came back strongly with the ball, taking three wickets before the hosts had taken their lead past 200. The early dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar for five even gave Kevin Pietersen's side brief belief that something remarkable might yet happen. The sensation returned when Andrew Flintoff expertly ran out V V S Laxman for 15, but it ended within minutes of Yuvraj's arrival in front of his home crowd.
A frustrated Pietersen had ridiculed the bowling of Yuvraj, his feuding opponent, on the third evening, calling his left-arm spin bowling "filth" and labelling him a "pie chucker". The England captain even positioned himself at leg slip before Yuvraj faced his first ball, just to make sure the batsman heard what he had to say.
But it had no effect. Yuvraj smashed his first ball, bowled by Monty Panesar, down the ground for four, guided his third ball to the third-man boundary and then went on to play several handsome strokes. The painstaking innings of Gautam Gambhir, who finished the fourth day unbeaten on 44, was in stark contrast. While Yuvraj slogged Panesar for a huge six and made batting look easy Gambhir continued to block as India stretched their lead to 285.
When asked what he thought about Pietersen's comments the previous evening, Yuvraj said: "When I opened up the papers and read what Pietersen had said, I had to ask people what it meant. They said it means that I am a useless type of bowler. He has now got out to me five times, so I would say that he is useless at batting. I like the fact he hates my bowling.
"Anyway, I have a better bowling action than him. If he works hard at his bowling he could be a good bowler. I have given him some tips but he needs to work hard at it. No, it is OK. He is a phenomenal player with a phenomenal record. He batted like a champion the other day. Sometimes the chat fires you up; sometimes it affects you. I don't mind it; it makes me more focused, so I look forward to it, as I look forward to the challenge of batting. He tried to get under my skin in the last game [the Chennai Test] and it brought out the best in me. I tried the same and it brought out the best in him.
"Me and KP are good friends away from the ground but on the field we are not there to make friends. We are playing for our country and we are proud to do that. It is good competition on the field but I am not in the habit of hanging out my dirty washing in public. I like that name, though: 'Pie chucker'."
Having bowled England out for 302, India will have held aspirations of scoring quickly enough to push for victory. But those hopes were dashed by excellent bowling and two needless run-outs.
Virender Sehwag was the first to fall short of his crease when he decided to attempt a cheeky single after Stuart Broad had parried a straight drive from the batsman.
The ball stopped three or four yards from the stumps at the bowler's end and Sehwag's desperate dash was beaten by a swooping Ian Bell, picking the ball up and diving with it, as Jonty Rhodes famously did at the 1992 World Cup, into the stumps. After Bell had broken the stumps with the ball in his hand, his momentum continued to take him forward, knocking all three out of the ground as he flew through the air.
A Broad ball that kept low then bowled Rahul Dravid for nought, deflecting off the bottom of his bat and on to middle stump. James Anderson claimed the prize scalp of Tendulkar caught in the gully to reduce India to 44 for 3. Tendulkar has looked disoriented in this Test, as though the emotion of last week's win in Chennai has taken its toll.
With India now in a defensive mode, England's excellent seamers took control, and it was the lack of scoring opportunities they provided that forced Gambhir to call Laxman for a quick single. Laxman has never been a quick runner but he would have needed to move like Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt to make his ground. His desperate lunge was beaten by an athletic pick-up and throw by Flintoff.
Morning fog once again caused play to be delayed, this time by two hours, and when the umpires decided the conditions were acceptable it was England who were caught unawares.
Pietersen's aspirations of leaving here with a draw received the worst possible start when Matthew Prior, somewhat lazily, attempted to nudge the 13th ball of the day to fine leg but only managed to guide it to the safe hands of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the Indian wicketkeeper.
Harbhajan Singh claimed his second wicket of the morning in his next over when Broad padded up to a ball that failed to turn and lost his off stump. Graeme Swann soon followed, losing his leg stump to Zaheer Khan. Zaheer is a hugely skilful bowler and he lined Swann up beautifully, bowling two away swingers and then one that drifted in. It all proved too much for England's off-spinner.
Monty Panesar was the last to go, caught at short leg leaving a vigilant Anderson 92 short of a maiden Test hundred. The dismissal meant that England had lost their last four wickets in the space of just 17 runs. The figures are even worse for England if the loss of Pietersen and Flintoff late on the third evening are taken into consideration. England were coasting on 280 for 4 when the pair were together and harbouring hopes of getting close to India's first innings total of 453.
But their quick dismissal instigated a collapse that resulted in England losing 6 for 22. To fall away in such fashion will have been hugely disappointing to all in the visiting dressing room, especially those who have worked so hard to keep the team competitive.
Ball of the day
It is doubtful there is a more skilful bowler than Zaheer Khan. Two away swingers to Graeme Swann round the wicket were followed by an in-swinger which took out his leg stump.
Shot of the day
Batsmen struggled for runs on the fourth day but Yuvraj Singh showed that it was far from impossible to play attacking shots. The heaved six off Monty Panesar was dismissive.
Moment of the day
The "Piegate" update: Yuvraj Singh light-heartedly saying that he had dismissed Kevin Pietersen five times and that the England captain was a useless batsman.
Fourth day of five; India won toss
India – First Innings 453 (G Gambhir 179, R Dravid 136).
England – First Innings
(Overnight: 282 for 6)
J M Anderson not out 8
53 min, 30 balls
†M J Prior c Dhoni b Harbhajan Singh 2
7 min, 8 balls
S C J Broad b Harbhajan Singh 1
9 min, 9 balls
G P Swann b Zaheer Khan 3
12 min, 9 balls
M S Panesar c Gambhir b Harbhajan Singh 5
13 min, 16 balls
Extras (b1, lb7, w1, nb6, pens0) 15
Total (369 min, 83.5 overs) 302
Fall: 1-0 (Strauss) 2-1 (Bell) 3-104 (Cook) 4-131 (Collingwood) 5-280 (Pietersen) 6-282 (Flintoff) 7-285 (Prior) 8-290 (Broad) 9-293 (Swann) 10-302 (Panesar).
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 21-3-76-3 (w1) (1-0-1-1, 3-0-23-0, 7-1-30-1, 7-1-17-0, 3-1-5-1); Sharma 12-0-55-1 (nb5) (5-0-26-1, 4-0-15-0, 3-0-14-0); Yuvraj Singh 6-1-20-0 (1-1-0-0, 3-0-11-0, 2-0-9-0); Harbhajan Singh 20.5-2-68-4 (1-0-3-0, 7-1-24-0, 4-0-26-0, 8.5-1-15-4); Mishra 24-0-75-2 (nb1) (one spell).
Progress: Fourth day (9am start, min 98 overs): Fog delayed start until 11am. 300: 366 min, 82.5 overs. Innings closed: 11.44am. Cook's 50: 87 min, 56 balls, 8 fours. Pietersen's 50: 91 min, 61 balls, 9 fours. 100: 193 min, 126 balls, 14 fours, 1 six. Flintoff's 50: 127 min, 96 balls, 5 fours, 1 six.
India – Second innings
G Gambhir not out 44
235 min, 155 balls, 3 fours
V Sehwag run out (Bell) 17
25 min, 17 balls, 2 fours
R Dravid b Broad 0
28 min, 19 balls
S R Tendulkar c Swann b Anderson 5
41 min, 22 balls, 1 four
V V S Laxman run out (Flintoff-Prior TV replay) 15
80 min, 49 balls, 2 fours
Yuvraj Singh not out 39
57 min, 40 balls, 5 fours, 1 six
Extras (b4, lb3, w5, nb2, pens0) 14
Total (for 4, 235 min, 50 overs) 134
Fall: 1-30 (Sehwag) 2-36 (Dravid) 3-44 (Tendulkar) 4-80 (Laxman).
To bat: *†M S Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, A Mishra, I Sharma.
Bowling: Anderson 15-8-32-1 (7-4-32-0, 8-4-9-1); Broad 11-2-22-1 (w4) (9-1-18-1, 2-1-4-0); Flintoff 9-1-16-0 (nb2, w1) (5-1-7-0, 4-0-9-0); Swann 8-2-20-0 (5-2-6-0, 2-0-9-0, 1-0-5-0); Panesar 7-0-37-0 (one spell).
Progress: Fourth day: Lunch: 9-0 (Gambhir 8, Sehwag 1) 2 overs. 50: 117 min, 23.3 overs. Tea: 56-3 (Gambhir 26, Laxman 6) 25 overs. 100: 208 min, 45 overs. Bad light stopped play 4.52pm.
Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pak) and D J Harper (Aus).
TV replay umpire: S KL Shastri.
Match referee: J J Crowe.