For India, the most light-hearted moment of the day came in the 78th over. The new ball was round the corner when Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in a bid to probably just break the monotony, shed his gloves and pads and wore a smile on his face: he was ready for a bowl.
Two overs later, though, it would transform into the team’s most painful, if not ironic, moment. Emboldened by his first ball surprise to Kevin Pietersen, that rapped him on his leg guard, Dhoni dug his ninth one just a little short and got it to hurry off the pitch.
Pietersen, typically, jabbed at it, hoping to make it scurry from his presence. He missed the ball but his bat flicked his pad on its way down; Dhoni, and the now-resigned-to-his-fate-behind-the-stumps Rahul Dravid, went up in celebration. Umpire Billy Bowden, fooled, raised his crooked finger, even as Pietersen was shaking his head vigorously.
He promptly signalled a huge T with his arms, calling for a review. The Hot Spot confirmed that the bat had only made contact with thin air.
At that stage, he was on 73 and England still somewhat precariously poised at 219 for three. Somehow, the DRS only seems to be taunting India again and again.
India’s pain had only sharpened, with England jumping to 474 for 8 and closing their innings. Pietersen, after notching up his 17th century, revved it up to remain unconquered on 202 (326b, 21×4, 1×6); he was suitably supported by Matt Prior (71) and Graeme Swann (24).
India made sure they didn’t inflict any more pain on themselves, wading through the tricky six overs left on the second day of the first Test without any damage. They were 17 for no loss, with Abhinav Mukund (8) and Gambhir (7) remaining unseparated.
India seemed to have pulled themselves back into the game with the new ball when Praveen Kumar struck two blows in the 93rd over. He first induced an edge from Ian Bell (45; 76b, 6×4), and then two balls later, forced Eoin Morgan into thinking that he too had edged one. Praveen clearly was the pick of the day, spearheading India’s attack in the absence of Zaheer Khan.
He bowled cleverly, exploiting the conditions to garner swing and the ball to make it seam; he also had to dig deep into his bag of stamina as he had to come back for spell after spell. He was rewarded with a well-deserved five-wicket haul
It was almost inevitable as Pietersen had made the other two regular bowlers redundant with his large stride. Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh looked on helplessly as he repeatedly moved forward and across to whip them through the leg side.
It was a well thought-out ploy, probably the most effective one too, as the ball swung bravely despite the bright and sunny conditions. He essayed a few big shots too, even lofting Harbhajan against the spin and thumping Ishant when he dug in short. Praveen, though, didn’t have much to worry about. His length was perfect, for the most part, and he kept chipping into the England batting. He bowled a mesmerising spell of 6-2-7-1 in the morning, first uprooting Jonathan Trott and almost perplexing Pietersen too.
Dravid dived forward at shortish fine leg but could only scoop the ball up; it implanted a doubt in the third umpire’s mind. Pietersen was on 49 then.