England rampant as packed house holds its breath for Sachin
Lunch: First Test, day five, Lord’s
Match score: India 142-4 (Tendulkar 7*, Raina 4*, Laxman 56) and 286 (Dravid 103*; Broad 4-37) need 316 more runs to beat England 474-8 dec (Pietersen 202*, Prior 71, Trott 70; Kumar 5-106) and 269-6 dec (Prior 103*, Broad 74*; Sharma 4-41) Full scorecard
Session score: India 62-3 England win
They queued for hours and plenty were left disappointed. It was like Old Trafford in 2005 when 10,000 were locked out, except this being Lord’s many expectant punters towards the end of the snaking lines were advised politely to turn back as early 9am.
MCC officials were expecting a bigger crowd than the 24,000 who came to Lord’s the final day of the 2009 Ashes Test when Andrew Flintoff bowled England to their first victory over Australia here for 75 years.
But the atmosphere was more akin to the World Twenty20 match between England and India in 2009 when England found themselves being booed by a predominantly Indian-supporting crowd.
The crowd was younger and more Asian than you get for the first four days of a Lord’s Test when tickets are sold months in advance at top-dollar prices.
Every Indian boundary was cheered, there was a Mexican wave after only half an hour and one wondered whether, if England did go on to win the match, how many of the crowd would still be in attendance.
Disappointingly the pavilion was not entirely full and the Warner Stand next to it, reserved for MCC members and their guests, was half-empty. There are 18,000 MCC members and on the fifth day of Tests associate members, those on the lengthy waiting list for membership, are allowed in so it is beyond belief that these areas were not filled by the start of play.
The crowd, whichever side they were supporting, was rewarded with another intense session of Test cricket with England exerting consistent pressure on the Indian batsmen.
They came to see Sachin and at 12.35pm they got their wish as VVS Laxman, who had made a stylish if not entirely trouble-free fifty, flicked Jimmy Anderson to Ian Bell at mid-wicket.
It was the second wicket of the morning and the one that gave England material reward for the unrelenting pressure they had created in the session. Anderson, who has a quiet match, had taken two for three in 13 balls. Earlier he broke the Wall, Rahul Dravid fencing loosely at a wideish one that swung down the slope after earlier being dropped at short leg by Bell.
Gautam Gambhir followed Laxman into the pavilion seven balls later, Swann straightening a ball down the slope into his pads that the left-hander thought he had hit first. He was wrong and Asad Rauf’s correct decision, another feather in the cap of these excellent umpires who have not put a finger wrong so far in this fascinating Test.
Tendulkar has the day in front of him to pursue his twin goals of an historic hundred and saving the Test for India. The latter responsibility may assist him in the former because he can focus on the team’s needs without being becoming obsessed with the personal milestone (or should that be millstone).
The odds on either eventuality looked long at lunch: England are bowling with skill and intensity and the pitch is assisting them too.
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John