Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni bat and bat and bat. Then they bat some more. Eventually Kohli gets out and we wake up, massively hungover and incredibly grumpy. The mood lifts somewhat when Dhoni runs himself out on 99. Before we know it the hair of the dog has kicked in and there are yet more gin bottles being opened.
We (and others) have been more than happy to stick the boot into India over the last 18 months or so. And with good cause when their performances and attitude have been so poor. Today, for perhaps the first time in that period, we saw the home side produce a performance of genuine fight, turning what looked like a lost cause into a very evenly balanced game. They did this through one huge partnership, Kohli and Dhoni adding 198 for the fifth wicket.
Kohli’s class has never been in doubt but his Test career has stalled on regular occasions, like an Indian Mark Ramprakash. This innings didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about his ability – he’s obviously a very talented batsman – but the question will again be whether it marks the beginning of a more consistent period of runscoring, or just another flash in the pan.
For Dhoni this was more of a statement of intent, responding to the criticism of recent times by moving himself up the order and producing an epic vigil, albeit one that did little to help our hangovers at 4am. Although it’s hard to blame anyone for scoring slowly on this pitch, which is about as appropriate for Test cricket as Chris Schofield.
We don’t get predictions right very often. Or ever, in fact. We unanimously backed England to win the series in the UAE and at home to South Africa for a start. So we’ll just park this tweet from our commentary during the day right here and say nothing more:
“Dhoni is up to 99*. The comedy runout klaxon is being gently stroked, poised to go off at any second
There’s a lot to like about Tim Bresnan. He looks like he works in B&Q for a start. But there’s one thing not to like about him and that’s his recent performances for England. His selection had us cussing back on Thursday and nothing we’ve seen since has changed our view. He’s no longer contributing with the bat and his bowling here was again distinctly unthreatening. Steve Finn was sorely missed.
Going back to the start of the South Africa series, Bresnan’s combined bowling figures are 2/420. The numbers don’t lie in this case – Bresnan simply isn’t the bowler he was before his elbow injury. While Swann, Panesar and (in particular) Anderson plugged away, occasionally threatening (prior to the final session), Bresnan was little more than workmanlike. In a two-man seam attack that’s simply not enough.
Despite at times being so dull that our own major intestines nearly leapt straight up through our necks and throttled our brains, this game is now wonderfully poised. Assuming England can find a way through the remnants of India’s tail in the morning (or perhaps restrict them for as long as possible without actually attempting to get them out) things will come down to a single innings shootout. Two things are strongly in England’s favour: the pitch, which looks as lifeless as can be, and the fact that they don’t actually need to win.
Ideally England will just bat and bat. If they can bat until lunch on day five they should be far enough ahead to make the game safe. If they can bat until tea they’ll definitely be okay. If they can bat until the close of play they’ll not only be safe, but will also have delivered some top class trolling for good measure.