After the momentum of the previous night’s madness reached its logical conclusion, England finally batted like they had a vague idea of what they were supposed to be doing.
All good things must come to an end – even Noel’s House Party was cancelled once – and so it was today as Ian Bell played the worst shot in the history of Test cricket, destroying our faith in him once and for all. It’s been a tough year for Bell, with him struggling in the UAE (where he averaged 8.50) and Sri Lanka (27.66) and at home to South Africa (28.80). We’ve even genuinely speculated about his right to a place in the team, with the return of Pietersen and the emergence of Bairstow. And yet the management kept faith with him, faith that Bell basically rammed down their throats in the style of a facehugger from Alien. Although quite what will burst forth from Andy Flower’s chest in a few hours remains to be seen.
England started the day in a horrible position and it appeared that things would only get worse. Kevin Pietersen started as if still drunk on the previous night’s gin, charging up and down the pitch, narrowly missing being run out, stumped and LBW several times in the first few overs. But then things began to settle down. Alastair Cook looked (relatively) at ease and England slowly began to try and get a foothold in the game, via a huge partnership between their two best batsmen.
And then Pietersen decided to do little more than wave his bat at a delivery from Ojha that pitched on middle, straightened and hit middle. There was no mystery about it, it was simply another dismal shot. From there England returned to the shambles of the previous night and it was only a matter of time before they found themselves following on.
England’s second innings was a much calmer affair, with a minimum of fuss, suggesting that it’s not impossible that the tourists could do enough to take the game into a fifth day, realistically the best result they could hope for. India will still feel confident of winning, but they were surprisingly lacklustre though large periods of the day, particularly when the English batsmen weren’t getting themselves out. Ashwin and Ojha will fancy adding to their hauls from the first innings but might have to actually work for their wickets second time around.