England’s serene progress towards another enormous score was halted only by the weather, and when the sun returned their bowlers left India’s first innings in tatters once again.
Though Ian Bell’s chanceless double hundred was a fantastic knock, most of his work came yesterday. Today, with some assistance from the footholes which serve as RP Singh’s solitary achievement in Test cricket for three and a half years, Graeme Swann bowled as well as he has done since the Ashes. With the pacemen bowling so well, his opportunities have been limited and he has been below his best all summer (Cardiff aside, perhaps). Today, however, he looked dangerous from the moment he was thrown the ball. As a naturally aggressive spinner, a situation where there were so many runs to play with that he could crowd the bat without worrying about the odd boundary suited Swann down to the ground. With all four bowlers capable of taking a hatful of wickets, the battle is on to claim the 15 remaining in the series.
The honour is to be shared today by two moments which involve players whose utter incompetence in this series deserves extra special praise. Virender Sehwag lasted two balls at Edgbaston, today he managed to keep VVS Laxman in the pavillion for all of five before Jimmy Anderson managed to trap him bang in front. The way the lengths of his innings are increasing, he should be due a big’un just about in time for their tour of Australia, which is a shame.
Viru’s partner on the naughty step is now the proud owner of one of the worst innings anyone has ever seen at any level of cricket; Suresh Raina. Whereas Sehwag’s failings have been short and sweet, Raina’s today was dragged out and tortuous. For 29 balls he scratched around without working the scoreboard before he put so much effort into missing the ball that he overbalanced and was stumped. His bowling is passable and he’s a good fielder, but his batting is absolutely embarrassing. His struggles with the short ball are well documented, but not content with being a one trick pony he has also shown himself to be unable to play the swinging ball or the spinner. Raina is nowhere near the quality required at this level and, much like Phil Hughes in the winter, England seem to be able to get him out whenever they please.
Assuming the weather holds for the majority of the final two days, the question is rather more ‘when’ than ‘if’. There is still the forlorn hope that India may show some fight and hold out long enough to make the final day interesting, but if Dravid falls early they could be well into their second dig by close on Sunday. The series was over as a contest mid-way through the Edgbaston Test, now it is merely a procession.