Rising to the occasion

For all but one of his 50 overs in England's second innings, Pragyan Ojha had bowled from left-arm around. He had stuck steadfastly to that line of attack, and never deviated from it against the left-handed Alastair Cook, even after he had crossed 150, even though there was a fair amount of rough outside his off stump.

In this, Ojha is a throwback. Most modern left-arm spinners are happy bowling over the wicket all day, even against the right-handers, aiming at the rough relentlessly even if it means giving up the LBW option.

The third ball of Ojha's 51st over, the 374th delivery of Alastair Cook's innings, kept low. This had happened from time to time on this Motera surface, but its slowness had allowed Cook and anyone prepared to stay back and play late to jab his bat down in time. But for once, Cook faltered. His back foot seemed to want to move across the crease, but remained stuck. As he chopped down on it, his bat, for once, wasn't straight. The ball snuck through and bowled him.

Ojha's refusal to go over the wicket to Cook can be seen two ways, either as a deficit of opportunism or an excess of faith in his own method. Had he switched angles from time to time, he might have dismissed Cook earlier.

But Ojha believed, perhaps, that a straighter line was the best way to exploit the ball that kept low, and to bring his leg-side catchers he often had three into play. More than anything, he did not want to sacrifice his control by experimenting too much.

As he tired during the latter half of England's second innings, Ojha dragged it short more often than he would have liked. Towards the end of Day Four, Matt Prior twice cut him for fours. In the ninth over of Day Five, a shortish delivery stopped on Prior, who scooped back a return catch. Such is cricket.

... contd.

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