Stuart Broad single-handedly keeps England in the game after one of the great days of Test cricket.
Until late in the afternoon Rahul Dravid was the star of day two. Given the conditions, the bowling attack and the game situation, it was a brilliant century. His partnership with Yuvraj Singh put India into an extremely strong position and looked to have taken the game away from England. One can only imagine what was going through his mind as the lower order collapsed in a heap at the other end. Despite that hundred, he was eclipsed late on as Stuart Broad took the game by the scruff of the neck (again) with a spell of 5 wickets in 16 balls for no runs during an unbelievable half hour. Broad has now taken as many wickets in the past week as he did in the eleven months prior to that, and having only taken more than two wickets in an innings once since January 2010, he’s now done so three times in three innings. Quite the turnaround.
The last two years have provided English cricket fans with some incredible moments, but Broad’s hat-trick must be right up there with the best of them. Having saved the game once already with the bat, he stepped up again at the vital moment to drag his country out of an enormous hole. Until that point it seemed that Kevin Pietersen dropping Yuvraj early in his innings would define the day. Indeed, given how England have repeatedly blown India’s tail away there must be a slight sense of missed opportunity. Had Pietersen held on, it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest the home side may have ended up with a first innings lead.
Each of Broad’s hat-trick wickets could easily be the moment of the day in their own right. MS Dhoni’s shot was at best a serious misjudgement, and he must take much of the blame for what followed after his dismissal. The Indian captain has had an extremely disappointing series so far. His ‘keeping has been downright abysmal, the only positive to be drawn from it is that it’s not been as bad as his batting. These things are forgotten if the team is winning, but if India fail to level the series here then questions will be asked. On top of that, there wasn’t an Englishman around who didn’t enjoy seeing Harbhajan middle the ball onto his pad and be sent on his way by umpire Erasmus. DRS isn’t perfect, but if you’re going to keep resisting it then the rest of the world hopes to see decisions like that go against you on a regular basis.
Despite all that, our moment of the day was seeing Praveen Kumar’s stumps rearranged first ball.
Trying to predict this test match has proven a foolish exercise so far, but England’s aim will be to bat as long as possible – time is not an issue because of how quickly the game has moved on in the opening couple of days. If the hosts can set a target of 250 or beyond then they will be able to put India under pressure on a fourth day pitch. Realistically, it’s unlikely either side will be able to put themselves into an insurmountable position, and barring a disaster both should still be able to win the game after Sunday’s play. It looks as if this test will go right to the wire.