Stunned, England face an uphill task
by CricketArchive Staff Reporter

Player:A Flintoff, AN Cook, GP Swann, MJ Prior, KP Pietersen, PD Collingwood, JM Anderson, SJ Harmison, MS Panesar, RS Dravid, Harbhajan Singh, SR Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, V Sehwag
Event:England in India 2008/09

DateLine: 18th December 2008


England dazed and bruised from the hammering received from India during the first Test will face an uphill task when the second Test starts in Mohali. The conditions for the second and the final Test could be a lot different from the heat and dust of Chennai. The weather in Mohali will have a tinge of coolness as it is winter in the northern part of India.


The tourists won rich praise for dominating until tea on day four after resuming their aborted tour, despite security concerns, but that will provide little cheer to the players. India achieved a fourth innings target of 387 on a pitch where the odd ball spun and bounced off the rough, the conditions were supportive for the bowlers and still they were not able to get the wickets to derail the innings of India.


The hosts stay on course for a second successive series win after a 2-0 triumph over Australia. England are hoping to avoid their second consecutive defeat after the 2-1 home series loss to South Africa.


Skipper Kevin Pietersen flopped with the bat and then revealed he had played with a broken rib, an injury sustained during the preceding one-day series. His captaincy was also bordering on negativity.


English view


Opener Andrew Strauss led the way scoring 123 and 108 with Paul Collingwood (108) supporting him in the second innings. Cook looked to be in good nick and Prior looked like playing a much more enterprising and energy infusing innings. But the rest of the batsmen played the innings with a defensive mindset. The post lunch session is considered to be the turning point of the game. Instead of accelerating the run-rate the batsmen just prodded along and in 22 overs they found the boundary only two times.


Flintoff and Pietersen are expected to be the batsmen to get up the ante but they failed miserably. The other batsmen seemed happy to just defend and stay for a long time in the middle and for a long time the run rate remained static. The only positive factor or victory that they can claim from the first Test was the way they neutralised the threat posed to Harbhajan Singh. England bowlers failed to rein in Indian batsmen on a wearing last day pitch and the bowler who will be under pressure will be left-arm spinner Monty Panesar who went wicketless in the second innings.


However, coach Peter Moores has backed Panesar and England's tactics, saying Indian batsmen's skills made the difference. "I have sympathy for Monty, who probably hasn't had a competitive game for four months because we didn't have our warm-up match," Moores was quoted saying. "That's difficult for a spinner who wants to bowl some overs in match conditions. As you go through your overs you get into rhythm so that's quite challenging for someone who is suddenly charged with the job of bowling out an Indian test match team that are playing very good cricket."


Only Flintoff and to some extent Swann looked like picking wickets, but the others were just ineffective. Harmison bowled without showing any heart, Anderson and Panesar were culpable of bowling without any imagination. Had theses bowlers showed even half the intensity of Flintoff the Indian batsmen would have found themselves ina spot of bother.


Indian view


Sachin Tendulkar scored a remarkable 41st century to inspire the fourth-highest successful test run chase, steering India to a brilliant six-wicket win in Chennai on Monday. India are in prime form after defeating Australia 2-0 in the home test series and then racing to 5-0 in the one-day series against England before the last two games were called off.


Explosive opening batsman Virender Sehwag set up India's improbable run chase by lashing 83 off 68 balls on the fourth evening. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has won all his four tests as captain. Yuvraj now seems to be settling down and may seal his position after one more solid performance. The team had entered the Test with two questions regarding two off their players, one was answered but another one has cropped up.


Batting stalwart Rahul Dravid will be the big concern after scoring three and four in Chennai, prolonging a form slump amid questions about the future of his brilliant career. The 35-year-old, the team's sheet anchor and India's second highest test run-getter behind Tendulkar, has looked uncertain this year belying his normally solid batting technique.


Dravid was already under pressure after averaging a measly 17 in seven innings against Australia and has been dismissed many times playing awkwardly to deliveries pitched around off-stump which during his heyday would leave comfortably. He is expected to retain his spot in the playing eleven but could be demoted down in the batting order to help him play with more freedom.


The other question will be the attitude of the off spinner, Harbhajan Singh. He, it seems has not yet grasped with the fact that Kumble has left the scene and he is the lead spinner with the role of guiding Mishra. But Mishra seems to pick up things and improve whereas Harbhajan seems to be happy bowling a containment line and length. The only time he flighted the ball he got Strauss to drive and scalped his wicket.


Mohali, where India clinched a record 320-run win over Australia in October, was chosen after original venue Mumbai was ruled out due to safety concerns in the aftermath of last month's attacks by extremists.



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