test-cricketThere has been nothing spectacular in the Nottingham test for four days in terms of any side looking like achieving a result. Despite Murali Vijay’s century and the last wicket heroics of Shami and Kumar on the first two days, India could not dictate terms to England. But they held an upper hand after leading the home side by 159 runs, when Liam Plunkett was bowled by Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the 92nd over, when England’s score stood at 298/9. From this point onwards, India slowly but surely allowed the match to slip out of their fingers. England’s last pair batted for more than 53 overs and created test-cricket history with the 10th wicket stand of 198.

Interestingly, it was here in Nottingham exactly one year ago that the 16-year old record for last-wicket stand was broken during Australia’s Ashes series last summer. By another coincidence, it was again the first test of Australia’s Ashes tour. Batting first, England couldn’t survive the bowling onslaught from Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc. Except Jonathan Trott, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root, who collectively contributed 103 runs, no England batsmen could hold the innings together as they folded for 215. But England struck back, when the Australians came on to bat. James Anderson, Steven Finn and Graeme Swann reduced Australia to a woeful 117/9 in the 34th over. From here onwards, Phillip Hughes and Ashton Agar batted for another 31 overs, surpassed England with a 163-run stand for the 10th wicket and broke the previous best record of 151 runs set by Pakistan’s Azhar Mahmood and Mushtaq Ahmed against South Africa at Rawalpindi in October 1997.

On the fourth morning, England began with a deficit of 105 with Joe Root and James Anderson showing no signs of getting out against a monotonous Indian bowling attack, which relied on short-pitched balls, especially to Anderson with the hope of extracting aerial shots. The strategy didn’t work and on an odd occasion, when Anderson seemingly got into trouble, Root would walk up to him to uplift his spirits; possibly telling him; “look here man, none of these guys can match Mitchell Johnson and we are not at WACA”. Anderson nodded his head and carried on. There are examples of India letting go of an advantageous position in the past. They were similarly placed in Durban and Wellington not too long ago but the bowlers let them down. The Nottingham test was just one in the same mould. In third day afternoon, India had England trailing by 255 runs and just three wickets remained in England’s first innings. But India allowed the last three pairs to pile up runs and surpass 457. When Root and Anderson began on the fourth morning, Root did his best to cover Anderson but soon a time came, when the no. 11 batsman played with full confidence and even hit some convincing boundaries. On the other end, Root never appeared to be getting out, hitting Sharma, Kumar and Shami with impunity. He finished his century off two exquisite cover drives scored off Shami as he progressed from 93 to 101. Indian fielding was found wanting in this match and a few half-chances were royally wasted. After reaching test-match history with the record partnership of 198, Anderson fell to Bhuvi Kumar for a well-made 130-ball 81, his highest test score. Joe Root, the architect of the partnership remained not out for 154 off 295 balls with 15 fours in sharp contrast to 17 hits to the fence by Anderson for nearly half of Root’s score.

Trailing by 39 runs on first innings, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan began well for India in the second innings to put on 49 for the first wicket. Dhawan scored freely and made a limited-overs look-alike run-a-ball 29 with 6 fours. He was caught and bowled to a full toss from Moeen Ali. Vijay and Pujara played more patiently for a second wicket stand of 91 but after scoring half-centuries, both batsmen departed to indiscreet shots on the same score of 140. Kohli and Rahane played out the remaining 7 overs before the draw of stumps. The fourth day’s play belonged to Joe Root and his last-wicket record partnership with James Anderson. They occupied the entire morning session and finished their marathon innings only after lunch. From an exalted position on third day, India yielded the advantage to England through serious limitations in their bowling attack. With just a day’s play left in the match, a tame draw looks like the most probable outcome.