Sachin Tendulkar marked his return to form with a patient 76 but England claimed the honours on the opening day by reducing a jittery India to 273 for seven in the first innings of the third Test on Wednesday.
Tendulkar played a composed innings under pressure facing 155 balls and hitting 13 boundaries in the process. His partnership of 79 for the fifth-wicket with Yuvraj Singh was the highlight of the Indian innings, as most of the other top-order batsman failed to capitalise on starts. He missed a century when he was forced to edge one off seamer Jimmy Anderson and the catch was taken by wicketkeeper Matt Prior diving to his right.
It was Tendulkar’s first half-century since the Sydney Test as he appeared relieved after getting to the mark with a boundary off pacer Steven Finn. Electing to bat on flat wicket that had little to offer, India had a promising start from Gautam Gambhir (60) and Virender Sehwag (23). But Gambhir could not convert his fine start for yet another time, while Virat Kohli’s poor form in the series continued as he could manage only six runs.
Anderson (3/68) rocked the home team at the fag end of the day with the second new ball. He bowled a perfect off-cutter that breached Ravichandran Ashwin’s defense. At stumps, skipper Dhoni was unbeaten on 22 (from 59 balls) along with Zaheer Khan, who was yet to open his account. This is the first time that floodlights were used in a Test match at the Eden with the last 40 minutes being played under artificial lights.
It was a complete lack of application from the Indian batsmen while Sehwag’s run-out can be attributed to his partner Gambhir’s poor judgement. The opening duo raced to 45 from 10 overs, as Sehwag batted with consummate ease scoring run-a-ball before Gambhir’s indiscretion ended his innings.
In display of poor communication, Gambhir did not listen to Sehwag’s call, as he stood watching the ball while the right-hander almost reached the other end before Samit Patel completed an easy run-out. After the departure of Sehwag, India struggled with Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli and Yuvraj who didn’t make significant contributions.
In-form Cheteshwar Pujara managed only 16 this time before Monty Panesar’s wrong turn foxed him as it knocked his middle-stump back. Gambhir’s Test century that has eluded him for nearly three years now didn’t come this time as he tried to cut a rising delivery from Panesar, which was too close to his body and the thickish edge flew to Jonathan Trott at slip. The left-hander faced 124 balls and hit 12 boundaries.
Kohli was done in by Anderson as the talented batsman edged one to the slip cordon. At 136 for four, Yuvraj joined Tendulkar and both of them started the repair job. Yuvraj hit back-to-back boundaries — with one of them an elegant straight drive — off Swann bringing smiles back in the Indian camp.
Just after the post-tea session started, Tendulkar clipped Finn towards long leg boundary to complete his 66th half-century in Tests and acknowledged the cheers from the dressing room. Most disappointing was Yuvraj, who looked set having scored 32 and then got out in a tame fashion, as he lobbed a simple catch to Alastair Cook in the short cover region while trying to punch a regular off-break from Graeme Swann.
The wicket was a typical Eden Gardens wicket where there was something for both batsmen and bowlers. While Anderson got the ball to move both ways, there was turn and bounce on offer for Panesar.