In perhaps the greatest sporting shock of modern times, England’s top order imploded in the face of some mild turn to virtually lose the game in the last hour.
On day one, Cheteshwar Pujara was superb; he began aggressively to keep England on the back foot before settling in to an anchor role as the rest of the batting line-up flourished around him. Today he continued to serenely go about his business, coasting to a maiden Test double hundred as England ground themselves into the Ahmedabad dust.
But that’s not really want we talk about.
Empires will rise and fall, mediocre bits and pieces all rounders will come and go, but England will forever be absolutely diabolical against the spinning ball. It isn’t merely that they usually get out to it, it’s the way spin seems to engineer a mass collective brain fade throughout the entirety of Team England that grates. India lost seven of their eight wickets to slow bowling, but they rode the pressure on the rare occasion it really turned on them and cashed in during flatter periods. Even after five Test matches in similar conditions this year, the tourists still don’t seem to have any sort of plan to combat the turn, with the inevitable result of getting stuck before gradually falling to pieces as the bowlers go for their throat.
This Test may well have been beyond England after the first day, when they exerted little control and all their worst feelings about touring India were realised as the ball disappeared to all parts, but it certainly is now after a final hour almost beyond parody. Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott both fell either side of the night-watchman Jimmy Anderson, who was not so much hung out to dry as hauled out in front of a firing squad to be blown to bits for the rest of the team’s entertainment. Whether it was a decision made at Trott’s behest or one forced upon him by the management, it was ridiculous, stupid and completely beyond explanation. England’s proper batsmen cannot cope with the conditions, what chance does their number eleven have?
Andy Flower and his coaching team have been virtually immune from criticism this year even despite the dreadful ineptitude of 2012 so far, that’s probably all about to change.
Barring a miracle of 1981 proportions, this game has gone for England. What they can do in the remaining three days is make sure this isn’t the complete humiliation it threatens to be overnight. Kevin Pietersen has the opportunity to prove a point with a massive score, one which probably won’t see him immediately dropped this time, while the captain made a reasonable start amidst the carnage and can push on and go some way to cancelling out some of his, well, ‘questionable’ decisions in the field. Realistically, everyone will be slightly surprised if this Test goes to a fourth day.