After two embarrassing defeats to their visitors, the Indians seem to have finally found a bowling rhythm... and they will hope they have done so in time to save this four-match Test series against England. The two teams began the final Test, in Nagpur, on Thursday, with Alastair Cook's men leading 2-1; England won the Mumbai and Kolkata Tests, while India were triumphant in the opener in Ahmadabad.
Much of the focus going into this decider has been the captaincy of India's MS Dhoni. The Times of India, for example, focused on a number of occasions in the past that called into question the wicketkeeper-batsman's relationship with senior players like Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir. However, for now at least, Dhoni retains his position. And any argument he may wish to make about remaining captain for the foreseeable future is likely to have to be based on a strong showing in this match.
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The hosts have made two changes from the side that lost so comprehensively at the Eden Gardens, with all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja replacing misfiring Yuvraj Singh and seamer Zaheer Khan dropped for spinner Piyush Chawla. This leaves Dhoni with only Ishant Sharma as a front-line seamer but given the Nagpur track is dry (it has not been watered this week), expect all three of India's spinners - Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and Chawla to play key roles.
Meanwhile, England have dropped Samit Patel, who has struggled all tour long, in favour of 21 year old Joe Root (making his Test debut) in a bold move. Cook has called Tim Bresnan up, after Steven Finn joined Stuart Broad on the injured list.
England won the toss and elected to bat first and the decision backfired almost instantly. Nick Compton (3) was guilty of not moving his feet to a Sharma delivery that was just short of length... the result was a half-hearted poke and an edge through to MS Dhoni.
Unfortunately, much worse was to follow for England, when Cook (who has three centuries and incredible 538 runs so far this series) was given out leg before in a most bizarre fashion. The ball did pitch on off stump but it was clearly moving away and, in fact, hit Cook (1) outside the line. Tragically, umpire Kumar Dharmasena from Sri Lanka felt convinced he saw something in Sharma's appeal and lifted his finger.
Out of nowhere then, England were reeling at 16/2. It took Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen to steady the innings and the latter once again underlined his value to the side, particularly in the sub-continent, with a patiently crafted half century. With Trott and Pietersen at the crease, England made their way to 100 mid-way through the second session and at drinks (with 49 overs played) they were in command at 101/2.
However, the Indians fought back before tea, forcing a mini-collapse in the middle-order. First, all-rounder Jadeja fooled Trott (44) with a ball that didn't turn, perhaps, as much as the batsman expected - the arm ball grazed the off stump and England were 102/3.
Ian Bell was the next batsman to go. But not before a brilliant spell of tight bowling from the Indians. Trott's dismissal was in the 50th over and Bell (1), who fell to a catch by Virat Kohli off Piyush Chawla, departed in the 61st, with the score at 119/4... meaning England scored only 17 runs from the 12 overs between the two wickets. The good news, though, was Pietersen was still standing strong.
The bad news, seven overs later, was Ojha took a superb catch at midwicket to send KP (73) back. It was a careless shot and Pietersen will no doubt have been kicking himself all the way back to the pavilion. At the time, England were 139/5.
At close of play, though, debutant Root and wicketkeeper Matt Prior put on a stern resistance, with a partnership of 60. Root is unbeaten on 31 and Prior on 34 and England are 199/5. Among the Indian bowlers, Sharma and Jadeja were the pick of the day, both in terms of wickets and economy. The former managed 2/32 from his 19 overs, while Jadeja had 2/34 from his 25.
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