Two sets of anxious eyes looked helplessly at Ravindra Jadeja at third slip. Pankaj Singh had bowled a bonafide wicket-taking away-going ball, Alastair Cook had played a wicket-giving prod.
Now all Jadeja had to do was to hold on to the knee-high catch to ensure that 11 men on the field would celebrate and 57 million on this Island would go into mourning.By spilling the catch, Jadeja saved England’s Sunday, maybe even Cook captaincy.
Tragically, it denied Pankaj, the best pacer of the day, a dream Test debut. Cook was on 15, the game was just 10 overs old.
In the final session of the day, Cook, on 95 now, would play another false stroke and once again two sets of anxious eyes would helplessly look at umpire Marais Erasmus.
Trying to force a shortish Jadeja ball off his legs, he had edged the ball to MS Dhoni behind the stumps. Jadeja pleaded, Cook gave a blank look towards the man wearing white and black at the non-striker’s end. Erasmus, thought for a while, rather unusually hitched up his pants and raised his finger.
Cook would have liked 5 more runs but the 95 he scored were precious. It got him a standing ovation from the capacity crowd and made his harshest critics change their opinion, for now.
A head start
The innings gave England a head start in this Test and blew away the cloud of uncertainty that had loomed over the home dressing room for some time now. The sight of a relieved captain with his feet up clapping after Gary balance reached his third Test hundred, proved how one innings of character has the power to change the course of a career, tempo of a team and, perhaps, the narrative of a series.
With England finishing the day at 247/2, the home team had come back strongly after the defeat in the second Test at the start of this week. On a pitch that wasn’t really cut from the same cloth as the one at Lord’s, more runs, from many more batsmen, can be expected in the coming days.
England seemed to have realised that a prominently green pitch was more suited to the visitors. An inexperienced batting line-up, an out-of-form captain can’t be made to cohabit on a lively track with smart seamers from the rival camp.
There are a couple of theories floating around at the Rose Bowl. One school of thought says that the pitch would get faster later in the game; the more depressing prediction was about how this Test could be reduced to a run-marathon. In case the batsmen do dominate play at the Rose Bowl, things could drag like they did today. With limited purchase for bowlers and balls coming slow continued…