Ahmedabad is the ice-cream capital of India, but yesterday's 99 came not from the deep freeze, but from Marcus Trescothick's doughty bat, after the England opener fell one run short of completing his century when he was dismissed fourth ball after tea by Anil Kumble.
Apart from Alex Tudor, who finished unbeaten on 99 against New Zealand two years ago, the last England batsman to be dismissed one short of his hundred was Michael Atherton, who succumbed against South Africa at Headingley in 1994.
Trescothick's near miss more or less summed up England's day too. Finishing on 277 for 6, it could, and should, have been better. Trescothick was philosophical about his failure to reach three figures, a feeling that was far too charitable to be extended to the umpire, Ian Robinson, who cost England two wickets with a brace of appalling decisions.
The first and worst, as has tended to be the case over the past few years, involved Nasser Hussain. If Hussain had felt it was his lucky day after winning his first toss in 11 Tests, he was soon disabused of the notion when Kumble spun a googly back into his pads. With the England captain having advanced several feet down the pitch, the ball would have missed leg-stump by eight inches, and that is being charitable. Amazingly, there was not even a twitch of dissent, though with just 12 hours to digest notice of Graham Thorpe's departure, the truth is he was probably too shell-shocked to react.
A docile exit was not forthcoming from Michael Vaughan though, who having replaced Thorpe in the line-up, gestured briefly in frustration after Robinson fingered him for a bat-pad catch off another Kumble googly. Caught at short-leg, by the already notorious Virender Sehwag, Vaughan did not get within three inches of the ball though the noise of bat clipping pad is probably what prompted the bowler and close catchers to open their lungs.
Robinson, who has been on the International Cricket Council's panel of umpires since 1994, jetted here from Perth, where he stood in Australia's final Test with New Zealand. In a match that could have gone either way, it could be argued that he cost New Zealand victory after giving both Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist not out in the final innings, when both had apparently hit the cover off the ball.
The errors here did not have quite the same dramatic stage, but they were howlers and too big for a man umpiring his 28th Test. When the ICC names its élite eight-man umpiring panel next March, the 54-year-old had better not be among them.
Vaughan's departure just before tea led to a mini-collapse, with England losing three wickets for eight runs, including Trescothick and Andrew Flintoff for a duck. Fortunately the situation was partially retrieved by Mark Ramprakash and Craig White. Flintoff's dismissal was identical to the one he suffered in the second innings at Mohali. To play spin defensively you need soft hands, something the raw-boned all-rounder is more likely to acquire from a daily soak in Fairy Liquid.
The first five wickets all fell to Kumble, who until Sachin Tendulkar nipped in to bowl Ramprakash through the gate, with yet another googly, was heading for all 10, a feat he recently achieved against Pakistan. Kumble's bowling always looks more threatening than it really is and it needed Trescothick to put things in perspective.
Until his wobble after tea, Trescothick had struck the ball with impressive certainty and power. In concert with his fellow left-hander, Mark Butcher, he helped add 124 runs for the first wicket, a stand broken when Butcher edged a ball from Kumble that was cleverly slid across him without top or side spin.
Apart from a miscued hook on 14 and a loose drive on 89, Trescothick looked a class above his team-mates, an impression borne out when India, with only three wickets in the bag, set the kind of deep field used when a recognised batsman is with a No 11.
If his timing did suffer, it was spending the tea break on 99. Afterwards, some extra bounce from Kumble, as he bowled yet another googly, helped find the edge as the left-hander nibbled fatefully outside his off-stump. "It was a bit disappointing, but at the start of play I'd have taken 99 any day," said Trescothick afterwards. "The tea break didn't really worry me as we came off, but I was a bit nervous after it."
Since his almost chance introduction to international cricket, after Hussain was injured during a one-day series two years ago, Trescothick has looked to the manner born. If he has a fault, it is that he tires both physically and mentally, and more than once has a potent and decisive innings been halted by a sloppy shot. "I think I've been playing and concentrating well enough to get a hundred, and I really thought I was going to get my break," he said.
The crispness and weight of stroke that saw Trescothick swat Harbhajan Singh for a mighty six over mid-wicket was not admired by everyone. Shiv Sunder Das reckons he has been struck at short-leg 15 times in 15 Tests and he again spent the last two sessions off the field after he stopped a full-blooded sweep with his collar bone for the second time in two Tests.
But pain occasionally equals gain and Das had the satisfaction of knowing that on a day when one run cost Trescothick a Test hundred, he had saved a certain boundary.
First day; England won toss
ENGLAND – First Innings
M A Butcher c Dasgupta b Kumble 51
M E Trescothick c Dasgupta b Kumble 99
*N Hussain lbw b Kumble 1
M P Vaughan c Sehwag b Kumble 11
M R Ramprakash b Tendulkar 37
A Flintoff c Laxman b Kumble 0
C White not out 42
ÝJ S Foster not out 15
Extras (b4 lb12 w1 nb4) 21
Total (for 6, 375 min, 90 overs) 277
Fall: 1-124 (Butcher); 2-144 (Hussain); 3-172 (Vaughan); 4-176 (Trescothick); 5-180 (Flintoff); 6-239 (Ramprakash).
To bat: A F Giles, R K J Dawson, M J Hoggard.
Bowling: Srinath 17-3-71-0 (nb3) (7-1-31-0, 4-0-16-0, 2-0-17-0, 4-2-7-0); Yohannan 12-2-33-0 (nb1 w1) (4-1-12-0, 5-1-12-0, 3-0-9-0); Harbhajan Singh 23-6-54-0 (6-3-10-0, 1-0-1-0, 7-0-26-0, 5-1-15-0, 3-1-2-0, 1-1-0-0); Kumble 30-6-80-5 (25-4-74-5, 4-2-3-0, 1-0-3-0); Tendulkar 7-0-23-1 (1-0-1-0,6-0-22-1); Sehwag 1-1-0-0.
Progress: First day: Wet outfield delayed start until 9.58am. 50: 62 min, 12.5 overs. Lunch: 79 for 0 (Butcher 35, Trescothick 36) 28 overs. 100: 158 min, 35.1 overs. 150: 202 min, 44.5 overs. Tea: 176 for 3 (Trescothick 99, Ramprakash 0) 55 overs. 200: 269 min, 60.5 overs. 250: 332 min, 77.2 overs.
Butcher's 50: 173 min, 129 balls, 9 fours. Trescothick's 50: 158 min, 95 balls, 7 fours.
INDIA: S S Das, ÝD Dasgupta, R S Dravid, S R Tendulkar, *S C Ganguly, V V S Laxman, V Sehwag, A Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, J Srinath, T Yohannan.
Umpires: A V Jayaprakash (Ind) and I D Robinson (Zim).Reuse content