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Jonathan Agnew column

By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent in India

Freddie Flintoff celebrates a wicket
A lead of 100 would be significant on this surface - and that is well within England's sights

Jonathan Agnew

This was Test cricket at its very best - unpredictable, tense and competitive.

India will be kicking themselves for some rather casual batting which allowed England to get back into the match, while Kevin Pietersen's team showed great spirit in the field to create pressure.

England's total of 316 did not look enough despite Matt Prior batting gamely and resolutely to shore up his precarious position in the team and give the bowlers something to go at after Andrew Flintoff had perished in just the third over of the day.

We wondered how James Anderson might then fare against Virender Sehwag, who had smashed him out of the one-day international team, but Anderson achieved some revenge when, having driven him for four, Sehwag lazily chopped into his stumps.

With one over to go before tea, Kevin Pietersen made a shrewd choice by calling up Graeme Swann.

The captain could easily have preferred the senior spinner, Monty Panesar, but Pietersen recognised that India's batsmen would be likely to be defensive before the break, and this represented the best time to give Swann his first over in Test cricket.

What followed was truly amazing when, after a nervous long hop was cut for four, Gambhir played no stroke to a straight ball and was lbw.

Three balls later a tentative Rahul Dravid was caught in two minds and received the sort of marginal lbw decision that tends to haunt batsmen who are out of form, with Swann joining Richard Johnson as the only bowlers to have taken two wickets in their first over in Test cricket.

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In the final session, Sachin Tendulkar hit Swann for six and, with VVS Laxman, made batting look straightforward.

Indeed, apart from some uneven bounce and occasional sharp spin, this is a pretty decent, if deteriorating surface.

Perhaps the batsmen became complacent - caught and bowled dismissals are often down to laziness - because Laxman drove a sharp return catch to a startled Panesar and, in the very next over, Tendulkar closed the face of the bat too early and gave Andrew Flintoff a more gentle offering.

Those wickets really were gifts, and once Flintoff had rattled Yuvraj Singh - as he had promised to do - Steve Harmison had the left-hander taken at second slip as he drove airily outside the off-stump.

A lead of 100 would be significant on this surface - and that is well within England's sights - but India know anything less than 50 would even it up again.

That said, the home side will not want to have to score anything more than 220 in the fourth innings to win.

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see also
Swann on song as England prosper
12 Dec 08 |  England
Swann revels in dream Test debut
12 Dec 08 |  England
India v England day two photos
12 Dec 08 |  England
England opt for Swann and Prior
10 Dec 08 |  England
The making of Monty
10 Dec 08 |  England
England in India 2008
01 Dec 08 |  Cricket


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