At lunch, having begun their second innings trailing by 207, India were 86 for no loss. Sehwag and Gambhir had scored these runs in a manner that cast India’s efforts on the field in a mildly forgiving light. Just like the English batsmen, they had run a lot of singles, 26 in all, a few of them after pushing the ball straight to fielders. With the Eden Gardens outfield as quick as it was, England too had placed their single-saving men too deep to actually save singles.
But against Sehwag, they had pushed a number of fielders, often as many as five, onto the ropes. He still managed to score seven boundaries. They had mid on and mid off up against Gambhir. In the last over before lunch, he had charged Monty Panesar and hit him over his head for a six and a four. Between them, Panesar and Swann had given away 49 in 12 overs. Nothing seemed to be happening off the wicket.
First ball after lunch, Swann dangled one wide outside Sehwag’s off stump. The ball dipped and turned to bowl Sehwag through the gate as he aimed a drive to cover.
In the first innings, Sehwag’s run out possibly made a big difference to India’s eventual total. On the evening of Day Three, England could have declared with half an hour to go, perhaps, to give the Indian openers a difficult five or six overs to negotiate. Or they could have declared overnight and made use of the new-ball movement available in the first half an hour. But they batted on, even when they only had Anderson, Finn and Panesar left, perhaps mindful of the Sehwag effect that warps Test match space-time even when he isn’t reckoned to be in great form.
England hit back
But Sehwag time was over. The normal rules of Test cricket were back in effect. The fielders could come off the ropes. Even the ones in the single-saving positions moved closer.
In the eighth over after lunch, Gambhir bunted one into the leg side. Ian Bell charged in from midwicket, swooped on the ball and hit the stumps at the striker’s end. Cheteshwar Pujara dived into the crease, a little too late. Both batsmen had hesitated at the start. Gambhir, for the second time in the match, had been involved in a run out. He might have been culpable in both cases. Pujara till then had looked good, driving Steven Finn straight down the ground and Swann through cover, wristily, against the turn.
The crowd roared in delight when the third umpire gave Pujara out. The fate of all batsmen on Indian grounds when they walk back to the dressing room with India two down. But to the crowd’s dismay, Sachin Tendulkar, in probably his last innings at the Eden Gardens, would only last six balls. Swann, two balls after being paddled from outside off for four, sent down a clever top-spinner bowled with a scrambled seam. Playing for turn, Tendulkar edged to slip.
In the over before, Finn had dismissed Gambhir, who was caught behind flashing a big, diagonal-bat drive at one that wasn’t full enough for the shot. The ball may have straightened a hint off one of the cracks on the surface.
When James Anderson returned to the attack, he showed that there was definite potential for movement off the seam. From around the wicket, he angled one into Yuvraj Singh. The ball came in even further after pitching, stayed a little low, and bowled the left-hander before he could bring his bat down. Five down for 122.
It was soon six down for 122. MS Dhoni, in all too familiar manner, jabbed at a back-of-a-length ball in Anderson’s next over, with feet stuck in their starting positions, and edged to first slip.
Virat Kohli and R Ashwin batted on for the 12.5 overs that remained till tea. India trained by 62, with four wickets in hand. But Kohli didn’t even make it to the third over after the interval, caught behind off Finn, edging a loose drive.
With Ashwin looking in no trouble while defending, and scoring 13 fours, India ended the day 32 ahead. But only one wicket remained. Kohli might have wondered whether he had gotten out to an ill-advised stroke. As might both openers.
“We didn’t show enough patience,” Sehwag said. “Very much disappointed because wicket is not that bad that we lose six wickets in one session.”