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Jonathan Agnew column

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent in India

Yuvraj Singh
Until Yuvraj got going before the close, India did not seem keen to set up a declaration

Jonathan Agnew

Once the inevitable pea-souper lifts, England will still have some batting to do on the final day to make the second Test safe.

But their task has certainly been made easier by some curiously negative tactics by India's batsmen who, until Yuvraj got going before the close, did not seem keen to set up a declaration.

Despite having a more than healthy lead of 151 on first innings, India declined to press on positively once Virender Sehwag had run himself out for 17.

True, England's bowlers aimed a consistent line outside the off stump but only one team could win the game, therefore it was up to India to force the pace.

It does not help, of course, that this is only a two-match series, and let's hope that this is not repeated. As soon as one team has taken the first game, there is no reason for it to take any risks in the second and there is the real likelihood of stalemate.

However, the ball is taking a lot of spin now, and Rahul Dravid will tell you all about the ball keeping low. He got a dreadful scuttler from Stuart Broad that added Dravid to the list of those whose first-innings century was promptly followed by a second-innings duck.

There is also England's batting to consider - and particularly the hapless collapse at the end of their first innings in which they lost their last six wickets for 22 runs.

None of the lower order looked at ease - although Matt Prior's dismissal to a leg side catch was rather unlucky - and while you would expect the spinners to cause the problems, in fact it was Zaheer Khan's brilliant mix of aggression and disguised reverse swing that was the more unnerving.

James Anderson was the pick of England's bowlers in the curious afternoon session in which India scored just 47 runs for the loss of three wickets in 23 overs. If you remove Sehwag's contribution, only 26 runs came in 19 overs.

Anderson is dreadfully frustrating in that he still lacks consistency - he lost his place in the one-day team earlier on this tour - but when he is flowing and has rhythm, he makes swing bowling look simple. In fact, his dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar rather summed up India's confused approach.

For the second time in the game, Tendulkar failed to lift himself to anything approaching the dizzy heights of his Chennai heroics - and he loosely sliced a catch to gully for five.

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see also
Batsmen restore India's control
22 Dec 08 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
21 Dec 08 |  England

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