JONATHAN Trott was England’s rock as they adopted extreme measures for extreme conditions to try to close out a famous series victory in India.
Trott (66 not out) appeared in his element on the lifeless pitch at the VCA Stadium, with England crawling to a stoic 161 for three while India’s frustrations simmered on an ill-tempered fourth day of the final Test.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni had earlier declared India’s first innings on 326 for nine, four runs behind after half-an-hour of curiously unadventurous batting in a match England need only draw to hang on for a 2-1 success.
By stumps, thanks to Trott, latterly in an unbroken half-century stand with Ian Bell, they were surely just one more session of batting away from overturning 27 years of history.
Nick Compton set the tone as England concerned themselves with crease occupation, almost to the exclusion of runs.
It was symptomatic of the turgid lack of pace in this surface that, five minutes before lunch, Compton edged Ravichandran Ashwin for the first boundary of the day by either team.
Alastair Cook needed 27 balls to register his first run. The captain’s strike rate got even worse before marginally better in a 93-ball innings of 13.
After Cook went, Trott tore up the template by sweeping his very first ball for four.
England’s accumulation of breathing space remained tense, however, relieved just for a moment when one delivery slipped from Ravindra Jadeja’s hand and barely trickled in Trott’s direction before coming to a standstill two-thirds of the way down the pitch.
He was quickly out of his crease to smash the stationary ball past square-leg, for just the fourth boundary of the innings – in the 38th over.
On the stroke of tea, England lost Compton lbw to Pragyan Ojha. Kevin Pietersen escaped a sharp chance on two to Virender Sehwag at slip off Jadeja but could add only four more before going out.
The flashpoint that followed betrayed the gravity of the situation for India, in danger of losing a Test series at home for the first time in eight years. Trott was given not out caught behind by Dharmasena, cutting at Ishant on 43, to the animated distress of both bowler and wicketkeeper Dhoni.
Ishant did not let the disagreement lie, following through in his next delivery to make the point again to Trott – who appeared to mouth a kiss back from under his helmet grille.
Dhoni and others made their annoyance known to the officials, but a determined Trott ground on to complete a priceless 106-ball 50 and, by stumps, he had kept India at bay for almost 50 overs.
Trott’s partnership with Bell took England from double-figures to beyond 150 – a position of relative comfort, barring a collapse tomorrow.
Bell’s arrival coincided with a minor spike in the scoring rate, too, and England exceeded two-an-over for the first time – halfway through the 62nd.