On a remarkable day of Test cricket, England moved to within striking distance of winning the second Test, and levelling the series at one match a piece. Both Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen completed their respective centuries, with Cook out for 122 and Pietersen eventually falling for 186. Despite there being no significant contributions from the rest of the middle order or the tail, England were able to reach 413 all out, resulting in a first innings lead of 86. From there, the spin bowling duo of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann tore into the Indian line up, knocking off seven wickets before the end of play. With India now effectively 31-7, England are in pole position to win the match, although with opener Gautam Gambhir still at the crease on 53 not out, the win is not assured just yet. It was a spectacular day’s play that has reignited the series, and if England are able to finish the job it will set the stage for what could be a fascinating final two Tests.
Cook and Pietersen came through for England with crucial scores, and both now sit level with Colin Cowdrey, Wally Hammond and Geoff Boycott as record holders on 22 Test hundreds for England. It was a fantastic innings from Pietersen, and alongside the usual flair we have come to expect, there was a composure that was lacking in the previous Test match. Whereas Cook laid a solid platform for the England innings, Pietersen took the game away from India and demonstrated why the ECB were so keen to resolve the rift that had developed between the player and his team. Once India came out to bat, another player who has been recently recalled came to the fore. Monty Panesar has now taken 10 wickets in the match, an emphatic way to repay the faith shown in him by Cook and Andy Flower following his first Test omission. Few would bet against him taking several of the remaining wickets England need.
With only three wickets remaining India are certainly in a precarious position, but in Gambhir they have an opening batsman who is set, and at the other end Harbhajan Singh has two Test hundreds to his name. Ravichandran Ashwin has also shown the damage he is capable of doing in the last Test, and he may well be the key wicket when it comes to the score India are able to set England. If they are able to eek out a lead of anything over three figures, the nerves will start to jangle for the England batsmen, particularly if several wickets fall early. Equally, if Panesar and Swann can take a wicket in their opening spells, the sting should be taken out of the Indian tail. One would expect England to complete the victory, but as has been shown on many occasions, there is always the possibility of a spectacular collapse.
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
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