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December 4, 2001

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Dasgputa ton helps India consolidate

Prem Panicker

There's two ways you could look at the morning session of day two. From the England point of view, given the early start at Mohali (light tends to fade early here during this season, necessitating a 9.30 am start to play) and the fact that dew on the pitch would have freshened it up a bit, conditions were good for the seamers and therefore the ask was for a couple of quick wickets.

From an Indian point of view, the morning session had to be about blunting the seam attack, ensuring that the England bowlers didn't strike often and early, and building a base for the innings.

Judged against that background, India did well, with a makeshift opener who seems to revel in that role and a nightwatchman, to keep out initial spells by Hoggard, Ormond, Butcher, Flintoff and White. Against that, England looked to shut down the boundaries, dry up the runs and wait for the batsmen to make the errors.

The real point of interest in the morning session was the introduction of rookie off spinner Richard Dawson -- in India, spin will have to play a big role and this was our first look at England's lead spinner.

Dawson is a tall bloke with a high arm action, giving him lots of bounce. It is yet a bit early to assess the turn he gets, or not, given that the pitch hasn't really begun aiding spin yet -- but he does loop the ball nicely and gets a bit of inward drift.

Deep Dasgupta smashed Dawson's second ball in international cricket for four to bring up the 50 of the partnership, off 146 deliveries. But in his second over, the rookie offie worked well to take out Kumble. The line was consistently outside off, inviting Kumble to drive or cut, with a field set to block those shots. Five deliveries, five unproductive shots created the pressure, and off the last ball of the over, Kumble (37 off 86) lashed another cut, this time leaning away from the shot, to get the faint edge through for the debutant, Dawson, and debutant keeper Foster, to combine for their maiden international victim (77/2). Interestingly, though his bowling is yet nowhere near peak since his comeback, Kumble appears to have rediscovered a zest for batting.

Dasgupta played circumspectly through the session, taking India in to lunch on 79/2 with his own personal score on 34 off 130 deliveries, while number three Dravid went in on nought. The morning session saw England keeping things tight, sending down 30 overs for just 55 runs (1.83 run rate).

Post Lunch Session

The Indian habit of overcooking its planning was most in evidence in this session. It was obvious that they had told themselves, 'Right, we had a bad time in South Africa, luckily, England stuffed up on day one, they've given us a chance to win here, so we need to bat carefully, pile up a big score'.

Which, as plans go, was fair enough. Trouble is that on the field, as so often happens with this team, there was no attempt to fine tune it. Having walked out with the intention of playing cautiously, the two batsmen, Dasgupta and Dravid, proceeded to do just that -- come half-volley or full toss.

For most of the second session, Nasser Hussain focussed on having his spinner bowl at one end (a nine over spell) with seam at the other. For seam, the field was six-three with an offside bias, for spin, the field was weighted more to the off side, though it did seem strange to see Dawson bowl quite often round the wicket to right-handers.

Having said that, the attack, both seam and spin, was at best disciplined, without having the kind of teeth the South Africans had displayed. Yet, the Indians stuck to their gameplan of cautious batting, for the most part not bothering to even rotate strike with singles.

Dasgupta's slow scoring was understandable -- he is after all not a regular opener, but more a lower middle order player who realises that this number one slot is going to be wished on him time and again. Therefore, for him to take time to build an innings and, in the process, get used to batting like a number one made sense.

What didn't, is Dravid's insistence on excessive caution. Funnily enough, this was the same bloke who started day five of the Centurion Test with four fours in the first over he faced before losing his wicket. Here, he put his head down and patted the ball around for long periods of time, when the state of the game, the nature of the wicket which had by then eased off completely, and the quality of the bowling demanded a more positive approach.

The session saw Dasgupta get to his second Test 50, off 159 balls (104/2 India) -- a flawless, if understandably dour, effort and further progress for the lad as a batsman. What is most noticeable is the speed with which he has learnt, after an initial dismissal or two, to play with bat very close to his body.

The 50 of the partnership took 132 deliveries to achieve, and the only other noteable incident in the session occured just before tea when Andrew Flintoff angled one across Dravid, making it kick just enough to beat the flick and get the glove. Foster got across nicely but grabbed at the chance in his eagerness, and saw it bounce off his fingertips (India at that point 149/2 with Dravid batting 33).

The second session saw India go in on 150/2, with Dasgupta batting 71 (209 balls) and Dravid 34 (104). The two hours produced 71 runs off 29 overs at 2.45 -- marginally better than the first session, but you'd have to think that England was lucky to be spared a bit of a leather hunt. And the best comment about the session was made by the crowd -- which, for the most part, appealed furiously each time the ball hit Dravid on the pad.

Post Tea Session

The final session of the day began as the previous one had ended -- with Flintoff standing hands on hips as another one went down. This time, it was Dasgupta's turn to drive at a delivery outside off without quite getting across enough to make the shot feasible. The ball flew hard off the edge -- and Butcher grassed it (India 159/2 in the 73rd over).

A typical straightish on-drive for four by Dravid got him to his 50 (127 balls), the partnership to 102 (252 balls), and India to 178/2. By now, the two batsmen had begun to show a greater sense of urgency, and started to look more actively for runs.

Dawson came back in the next over and off his first ball, had Dasgupta pushing at one outside off to find the edge. This time, it was Flintoff at slip going late into the lunge and failing to snaffle the chance. Insult was duly added to injury when in Dawson's next over, the batsman swept fine to get into the 90s, then squarer to take India on to 200 (India's first 50 came off 161 balls, the second off 149, the third off 105 and the fourth took just 69 deliveries -- indication of the gradual escalation in scoring evident through the day).

Shortly thereafter, Dasgupta brought his mates in the pavilion, and the fans packed into Mohali, to their feet with his debut century -- a workmanlike effort off 253 balls (15 fours, India 207/2) with a drive that took the thick edge down to third man.

The young lad has progressed steadily since being roped in to open the batting, and this innings continued that process. The commitment and character were on view right from his first outing -- each successive innings has shown increasing skill as well. His wagonwheel shows an even spread of shots all round the wicket, except through mid off -- this last, because he tends to drive with a more open bat face and thus gets the ball into the covers more often.

Immediately after reaching the landmark, though, Dasgupta (100 off 254) lost it -- a good reverse swinging delivery from Craig White and the natural loss of concentration combining to have him playing a push without getting into line, to miss and be bowled off the pad (212/3 India).

All day, the crowd had set up a roar for Sachin Tendulkar (average against England 81+). When the batsman finally walked out, after spending two sessions with pads and helmet strapped on, he was in no hurry to oblige the fans, preferring to take his own time to settle in. Noticeably, as in the last innings in South Africa, he appears to have misplaced the initial back and across movement, with the result that a few went past the edge as he shaped for the pushed drive.

England opted not to take the new ball when due, preferring to operate Dawson for a while longer in harness with one or the other of the seamers. The ball change finally came in the 93rd over with India 235/3. And an over later, an on-driven four by Dravid off Ormond, sharing the new ball with Flintoff, took India past the England first innings score of 238.

Andrew Flintoff with the extra bounce he gets off his height gave Tendulkar a few dodgy moments towards close of play, especially with one that lifted off length on line of leg and had the batsman fending it down to fine leg. An attempt to work on that line by going round the wicket, with a short fine leg in place, though, saw Tendulkar flick the four to fine leg to bring up the 50 of the partnership (109 balls) off the last over of the day.

India went in on 262/3 off 101 overs, ahead by 24 runs with Tendulkar batting 31 off 53 and Dravid continuing his monumental vigil on 78 off 194. The session produced 112 runs, at 3.61 per over for the loss of Dasgupta off 31 overs -- easily India's best session of the day.

There are 270 overs left in this Test -- which means that India have the option of batting on for another 100, 120 overs before turning the screws on the tourists on a track that, by close tomorrow, should dust up considerably and begin showing signs of variable bounce.

England, meanwhile, began to look like the Indians on tour -- dramatic collapses from good positions, bowling sans real penetration, chances offered by the dozen to the opposition, an increasingly defensive mindset (field spread out, bowlers bowling well wide of off), the works.

Full scoreboard |

Images from day 2 of the first Test against England

England's tour of India : Complete coverage