Last Wicket Stand Frustrates England

England began the second day looking to end a burgeoning partnership between M Vijay and MS Dhoni as quickly as they could before the shine wore off a still new-ish ball and get a crack at India's new-look lower-middle order. Dhoni gave them that chance just 13 balls into the morning, but Matt Prior failed to grab it.

By the time James Anderson broke the partnership, sending back Vijay for a magnificent 146, India's score had swelled from 263 at the time of the dropped catch to 304, and the ball had lost nearly 20 overs worth of its shine. Ravindra Jadeja then joined Dhoni and got away to a rollicking start, clouting the offspinner Moeen Ali for a four and two sixes in two overs, and had sprinted to 24 off 18 at lunch. Dhoni, who was on 50 when he was dropped, had moved to 81. This is one of those Test matches where winning a session won't necessarily take a team into a dominant position, but India will have felt happier at lunch than they did at the start of the morning.

Right since the time he had walked in to bat, Dhoni had set himself up to face the seam bowlers by stepping out of his crease and getting outside the line of off stump. It seemed an effort to get closer to the line of the ball and counteract one of his old failings away from the subcontinent, of throwing his hands away from the body at forcing shots. On a pitch with low bounce, it also seemed an effort to negate the lbw.

Facing the first ball of the third over of the morning, Dhoni's feet were not quite warmed up yet. Broad bowled it full, on a fifth-stump line, inviting the cover drive. Dhoni threw his hands at the ball, with his front foot still in the process of pressing forward. The ball swung away, took a thick outside edge and flew to the right of the wicketkeeper. Prior didn't have too far to dive, and got a big chunk of his glove on it, but couldn't wrap it around the ball quickly enough.

Dhoni swished at the next ball as well, and missed. He played-and-missed two more times in Broad's next ten deliveries. It was excruciating for England. With this India side, 263 for 4 and 263 for 5 were potentially hugely different situations.

Having survived this chance, Dhoni began looking a lot more secure. The big step out of the crease returned, and he easily survived an lbw appeal from Liam Plunkett, who pinged him on the front pad well outside the line with a very full ball, before whipping Ben Stokes from outside off past mid-on for four.

Broad created one more chance shortly before he finished his first five-over spell of the day, Vijay inside-edging an attempted back-foot punch narrowly past his stumps. Apart from that, he looked almost impregnable, leaving unfussily outside off and letting the ball come on to defend right under his eyes. In between he pierced the off-side field with some gorgeous drives, the best of the lot a wavy square-drive off Stokes that was all hands and wrists. A flick off his pads off Plunkett, all hands and wrists once again, took India from 296 to 300. India had totalled 300 only once during their last Test series in England, and Vijay had played a massive role in ensuring they began this one on a much better note.

It took another excellent delivery from Anderson to end Vijay's innings, nipping back in from outside off to strike him on the back thigh, in front of the stumps. Bruce Oxenford took his time before raising his finger, but this was definitely one of those lbws that just look out. On this pitch, barely anything from that length was bouncing over the stumps. Hawk-Eye suggested it was going over, but Hawk-Eye's square-on view also suggested, erroneously, that the ball had struck Vijay in front of the crease.

(Cricinfo)

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