The lights were on but no one seemed to be home. Below the dazzling floodlights that shone brightly in the cloudy evening sky, the final moments of play were witnessed by a silent and sombre Lord’s. With every English wicket, the mood became graver, and when Ishant Sharma had Alastair Cook caught behind, the final wicket to fall on Day 4, Lord’s went pensive and also half-empty.
At stumps, hope and depression were separated by the silent Long Room and Committee Hall that stood between the two dressing rooms. England finished the day at 105/4, still 214 runs short of the winning target of 319 with six wickets intact.
India seemed on the threshold of what seemed like a watershed win, one that would end their humiliating away streak. In case the two unbeaten batsmen — Moeen Ali (15) and Joe Root (14) —don’t turn up on Monday as Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman of Eden Gardens 2001, India will likely end their three-year long away Test-win drought.
The track that had started as being overly green on Day 1 had withered to a patchy and scruffy old brown carpet, the kind that generally have a ‘Made-in-India’ tag. Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja looked unplayable as he made the ball climb, die and, of course, turn.
Crouching fielders waited around to hold edges. To add to England’s misery, Sharma and Mohammed Shami came up with gems to dismiss Cook and Gary Ballance. Bell fell to the vagaries of the wicket as a Sharma’s delivery barely rose after pitching and crashed into the stumps.
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But the period of play that was decisive in the Test, the turning point, was when Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were at the crease.
When the two all-rounder met on field, India’s lead was just over 200. It swelled to about 300 when Jadeja was out after scoring a match-turning 68 from 57 balls. With their 99 runs partnership, they practically batted England out of the game, and India, in the home stretch now, were in the lead.
It was a busy period on the field. To borrow a footballing term, Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar played tiki-taka to fox the Cook & Co. They would constant pass on the strike to each other, hustle their opponents and suddenly launch into an attack against a worn-out bowling. The two ran 21 singles between them.
Many a time they would drop the ball and hare to the other end. The left and right combination of Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar didn’t allow the bowlers to settle into a rhythm, nor did it give them an opportunity for a longer face-off that would see them plan a dismissal.
During one Anderson over, they took 4 singles off the first four balls. In his next, the scoring sequence was 4, 0, 4, 1, 0, 4. England’s most successful bowler was hassled by the changing plans of the Indian lower-order batsmen. Though both were dropped, they didn’t allow this affect their batting approach.
They also ran 7 twos and even a couple of 4s. With their frenetic pace, they had dismantled the disorganised England. Bhuvneshwar continued to play with the straight bat while Jadeja didn’t worry too much about the instruction in the coaching manual.
The Test that was evenly matched till than now had a runaway leader. That was thanks to the two men with skates on.