Tendulkar dropped on 70 as India survive the morning
Lunch: Fourth Test, day five, The Oval
Match score: India 216-3 (Tendulkar 72*, Mishra 57*) and 300 all out (Dravid 146*; Bresnan 3-54, Swann 3-102) trail England 591-6 dec (Bell 235, Pietersen 175; Sreesanth 3-123) by 75 runs Full scorecard
Session score: India 87-0 India win
It takes something to overshadow Sachin Tendulkar in full torrent but somehow Amit Mishra, a non-turning leg spinner whose batting has been shown to be plenty better than his bowling, managed it.
If day five at Lord’s was People’s Monday then this is looking increasingly likely to be Tendulkar Tonday but it was Mishra’s Morning. Having made 43 in the first innings, he reached his second Test fifty. He used apparently to be an opening batsman in his younger days and it’s easy to see how.
A leg-glance for four through square leg off Stuart Broad was such a high-class shot that David Gower, commentating for Sky, misrepresented him as Tendulkar and had to be corrected. Mike Atherton said that he had written Tendulkar in his notes before doing a double-take.
The ovation from a crowd containing plenty of Indian supporters for Tendulkar’s 50 was loud. Goodness knows what it’ll be like if he does get his 100th hundred this afternoon.
He was a given a second life, after the stumping that England didn’t appeal for last night, on 70 when Alastair Cook dropped a relatively easy bat-pad chance of Swann at short leg.
England were frustrated. Jimmy Anderson was cursing the pot-holed footholds not long after he started bowling this morning. As the ball got older so Swann’s effectiveness diminished. He bowled with a new ball last night but there are 15 overs to go until the second new one is available.
Broad tied up Tendulkar towards the lunch interval and one imagines England will try every mental trick in the book the closer he gets to his milestone.
But it was India’s session and they have showed the sort of application in this innings that they been missing throughout the rest of the series.
The accepted narrative of this series, at least from an English perspective, is that India have been physically frail and gutless in this series.
When Amit Mishra called for the physio after being hit on the pad, Brits (and an Aussie) in the media boxes fulminated. Brits (and South Africans) on the field weren’t overly impressed either and Mishra had to be spoken to by umpire Rod Tucker for responding to the ‘banter’ coming his way from Kevin Pietersen at mid-on.
There is a growing sense in the Indian media that this condescending attitude is simply an Australian-style conspiracy by the English to bully and intimidate their opponents.
In an interview for an Indian TV station Sourav Ganguly said as much, egged on by his inquisitor, while fuelling his pantomime dispute with Michael Vaughan that began when the former England captain suggested Indian batsmen were using Vaseline on the edges of their bats to escape entrapment from HotSpot.
The evidence that India haven’t had the stomach for the fight has been compelling: poor technique against the short ball and a host of injuries.
England were particularly dismissive of Gautam Gambhir yesterday and yet talking to Indian journalists they find the presumption that Gambhir is weak to be both insulting and contrary to the impression they have of him.
He has a track record of batting long periods to save games and I’m told that had he not been a cricketer he would have been a soldier. One Indian writer told me that if he had to pick an Indian player to help him out in a pub scrap, Gambhir would be his man. He also believes that Gambhir was almost certainly batting yesterday against medical advice so that he came in at all shows his mettle not the opposite view.
Now you might argue that all things are relative and that claim says more about the rest of them than Gambhir himself. And it may simply be partisan support for the player.
What it does do is expose the complete lack of engagement by the Indian team management (and the board) with the notion of public relations or media communications.
If Gambhir is in fact being a genuine ‘Braveheart’, rather than the ironic label England have given him, then that his a story that should be told. If Virender Sehwag is batting despite all sorts of impairments – ear and shoulder problems are the ones we sort of know about – then sensitive briefings about these situations would do Indian a favour. In other words put up or shut up.
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John