Root, Anderson script England turnaround

Gill Saab

Yaar Malang
India 457 and 167 for 3 (Pujara 55, Vijay 52, Moeen 2-39) lead England 496 (Root 154*, Anderson 81, Bhuvneshwar 5-82) by 128 runs

For three days England were a speck in India's mirrors. Achieving a result would take some doing on this pitch, but if anyone was in position to think of winning it was India. By the time day four came to an end, the equation had turned on its head.

England started the day trailing by 105 with just one wicket remaining. When they lost that wicket in the fifth over after lunch, they were leading by 39, after Joe Root and James Anderson extended their partnership to 198, a Test record for the tenth wicket. By stumps, they had sent back India's top three, and all three wickets owed more to the batsman's choice of shot than to the bowling.

Batting in much the same way they had done during their first-innings partnership, M Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara put on 91 serene runs for the second wicket before Vijay jumped down the pitch and looked to show Moeen Ali who was boss, with half an hour to go for stumps.

It wasn't the greatest idea, considering Shikhar Dhawan had been out doing the exact same thing just before tea, punching a full-toss straight back to Moeen. Vijay aimed at the stands behind long-on, but only managed a thin outside edge to Matt Prior, who also took off the bails to give the umpire a choice of dismissal.

This was the last ball of the 41st over. First ball of the 42nd was short and wide. The cut had been a profitable shot till this point in Pujara's innings; now it went uppishly and straight to Ben Stokes at point. Stokes juggled the ball, and it hit his face and popped out to his left, but he put in a dive and managed to grab it one-handed.

Till then it had seemed as if India would end the day having recovered the poise that Anderson and Root's partnership had punched out of them. England's seamers had bent their backs and asked a few questions of both Vijay and Pujara, and there was a slight increase in the frequency of uncertain bounce, but the second-wicket pair answered most of them with equanimity.

Vijay offered a chance to Matt Prior before he had gotten off the mark, edging an Anderson outswinger after he pushed at the ball without moving his feet. Prior, though, was a touch late in diving to his right; the ball carried, but sped away narrowly wide of his gloves. The compactness of the first innings returned after that, and Vijay's bat remained scrupulously close to his body even on the odd occasion when he was beaten.

Pujara, meanwhile, had looked in fluent touch right from the moment he walked in and drilled the first two balls he faced, from Moeen, to the cover and long-off boundaries. He carried on punishing anything remotely loose after tea, and England must have wondered when their next wicket would come when he took two fours off one Plunkett over to join Vijay in the 50s. As it happened, they didn't have to wait too much longer, or work particularly hard, for that moment.

India, in the morning, had been made to wait much, much longer for their breakthrough. Anderson, who made his maiden Test fifty, was on course to join Root on a three-figure score when he went after a full, wide ball from Bhuvneshwar Kumar and edged it to the wicketkeeper. It was Bhuvneshwar's fifth wicket. Root, who had hardly put a foot wrong since walking in early in yesterday's middle session, was unbeaten on 154.

In recent months, India have let a number of promising positions slip from their grasp in overseas Tests. Trent Bridge now joined Durban and Wellington. England had been on the mat yesterday afternoon, seven down and 255 behind. Their last three pairs had more than doubled their score.

The morning began with Root steering Bhuvneshwar to deep point and chastising himself for taking the single and exposing Anderson to the strike so early. He needn't have worried. England's No. 11 played out the rest of the over comfortably, and even whipped Bhuvneshwar from off stump past midwicket for four.

That first-ball single set the tone for India's tactics throughout the session. In their second Test against Sri Lanka, England had paid for their approach of giving Angelo Mathews the single and focusing all their attacking efforts on his lower-order partners. Now Root was on the receiving end of similar largesse from India.

He generally declined the singles early in the over, but the defensive fields did little to stop him from finding the boundary. He top-edged a slash off Ishant Sharma through where second slip might have been to move into the 90s. In the next over, against Mohammed Shami, he played two gorgeous cover drives, the first one through extra cover to go from 93 to 97, the second through cover point to go to 101.

There was nothing in the surface to trouble either batsman, but India missed a few half-chances to end the partnership. England were on 378, and Root on 92, when he pushed the ball to mid-on and took off for a single. He had given up any hope of making the non-striker's end safely but Mohammed Shami's throw was wide of the stumps.

Later, soon after England had passed 400, Anderson prodded the ball to point and set off, only for Root to send him back. A direct hit would have meant the end for Anderson, but Bhuvneshwar's throw was inaccurate.

In between, India's mostly ineffectual short-ball barrage to Anderson nearly earned a reward when he popped one low towards gully, where M Vijay dropped a difficult chance, diving to his right. India kept adding men to the cordon, and at one point they had a semicircle of fielders surrounding Anderson, waiting for him to fend one in the air.

That almost never happened, and he usually managed to keep the ball down. But when the chances came, he didn't hold himself back. An uppercut off Ishant took him past his previous highest Test score of 34. Three overs later, Anderson jumped down the pitch and clubbed the ball past the midwicket boundary to go from 47 to 51. It was the first time he had reached fifty in any form of cricket - his previous best was an unbeaten 49 made while opening the batting for Burnley against Todmorden 13 years ago.

Soon India's attack began to resemble something out of the Lancashire League, as India went through the motions in the extra half-hour of the morning session, when they rested their fast bowlers and threw on first M Vijay, hoping he could winkle something out with his offbreaks, and then Stuart Binny, who sent down four overs to finally nudge his output for the innings into double figures. This surely wasn't what India would have wanted from their seam-bowling allrounder when they decided to give him a Test debut.