What a hit: the fab four on song at same time


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The Independent Online

There is usually a good debate to be had about the world's best Test attack. South Africa's line-up, led by the electrifyingly quick Dale Steyn, have their supporters while India's backers can at present point to three bowlers among the top 10. For an hour or so yesterday, though, there was no argument whatsoever as England's quartet combined quite brilliantly.

Andrew Strauss had sung the praises of his bowlers on a good many occasions over the last couple of years. They have all had more than their moments – and not just those playing in the first Test of this series (think Steve Finn and Tim Bresnan in Australia last winter, for starters). But seldom, if ever, can England's captain have been more thrilled with the efforts of each and every member of his attack than he was, surely, during an enthralling passage of play yesterday afternoon.

Everyone knew it was game on. Strauss's men had enjoyed a profitable morning, striking three times to leave the tourists – and their legion of fans inside Lord's – looking nervously at a scoreboard reading 142 for four. With Sachin Tendulkar at the crease, though, a good many of those supporters wearing the blue of India were not prepared to abandon dreams of a staggering victory, never mind a satisfying draw.

One hour later, everyone could forget about an away win after Stuart Broad, Chris Tremlett, Jimmy Anderson and Graeme Swann had produced just about the perfect performance. Well, perfect in every respect other than the number of wickets taken, but if ever there was a case of four blokes failing to get their just deserts, this was it.

Broad has been the biggest plus for England during this match. Fortunate, perhaps, to keep his place after a barren run made worse by the fact he seemed unable, or unwilling, to change his length of attack, coach Andy Flower probably shouted "Eureka!" when the youngster pitched it up during India's first innings and was rewarded with four wickets.

Could he do it again? Not half. Broad bowled well yesterday morning but his spell after lunch, with Tendulkar mainly in his sights, was quite brilliant. Maybe the Little Master was still feeling under the weather after being laid low by a virus earlier in the Test but, either way, Broad must have had his head spinning with one challenging delivery after another.

All it needed was for Broad to breach Tendulkar's defence. And he did, only for umpire Billy Bowden to reject a leg before wicket appeal that the Decision Review System would have upheld had England been able to use it. Of course, life would not have been nearly so uncomfortable for Tendulkar and his partner, Suresh Raina, if the problems were only being posed at one end. But Tremlett was just as consistent, and perhaps even more menacing than Broad, with the extra bounce generated by his great height.

There was precious little help for Swann in the way of turn but the world's No 1 spinner varied his pace beautifully while conceding just eight runs from seven overs. He could feel especially pleased with one terrific maiden to Tendulkar that would have been worth 10 out of 10 if only a 60mph "slider" had slid right through the batsman's hasty defence.

So that just left Anderson. The "leader of England's attack" had Tendulkar badly dropped by Strauss in the slips but then won a leg before decision to seal a passage of play that was right out of the bowling coach's top drawer.