James Anderson was rewarded for his highly-skilled swing bowling with three wickets, including the prize scalp of Sachin Tendulkar for the eighth time.
Anderson was the lynchpin of a disciplined and resourceful England attack which thoroughly earned an advantageous position as India closed day one of the third Test on 273-7 at Eden Gardens.
Tendulkar (76) and Gautam Gambhir (60) ensured the hosts remain competitive but neither could convert from 50 to 100.
The measure of England’s success could be gauged by the fact that India, who won the toss, have declared with more than 600 on the board in the first innings of their last three Tests here.
Anderson and Steven Finn got through 41 overs between them, statistical evidence of the fact pace as well as spin is an important weapon in this match.
Specifically, reverse-swing was the method which served Anderson best – although he bowled effectively when the ball was new as well as old.
He acknowledged that some of the tricks of his trade were learned from India’s Zaheer Khan, another example of England playing their hosts at their own game here – as they did in Mumbai last week, where their spinners outbowled the opposition.
Anderson (3-68) also reflected, modestly, on his happy habit of dismissing Tendulkar.
He shares the distinction, of seeing off the ‘Little Master’ eight times, with the great Muttiah Muralitharan but did not go along with a mischievous suggestion that Tendulkar is his ‘bunny’.
“I wouldn’t say that,” said the Lancastrian. “It’s a nice thing to have, and I’ll probably think more about it in years to come when I’ve retired and tell everyone that has happened.”
More important to Anderson and England, in the thick of a series level at 1-1 with two to play, was that Tendulkar was beginning to look especially dangerous just before he was out.
“It was a crucial wicket for us, and I was delighted to get him out because it looked like he was set,” said Anderson.
“He looked a bit scratchy early on but I was really pleased to get him out when I did.
“He’s such a class player that, when he gets in like that, he can go on and get a big hundred.”
Gambhir explained the difficulty of facing a bowler who is adept at reverse-swing and hiding the ball in his run-up and delivery from the batsman, so there are no clues from which is the shiny side.
It is then all about reaction rather than prediction for the batsman and Anderson learned from Zaheer how he could get that edge.
“It might have been the last tour here, when Zaheer did it a lot, and that’s when I started practising it.” he said.
“It’s proved to be a good skill – because when batsmen are good enough to see which is the shiny side and know which way it’s going, it’s a lot easier for them.
“So when you hide it, obviously it makes it more difficult.
“Once we got it reversing, it makes my job a lot easier to try to attack and get wickets out here, so I just enjoyed it as much as I could.
“We’ve had hints of it reversing in the last two games, but nothing like it did here.
“On the pitches we get out here, reverse is crucial for seam bowlers – because it keeps you in the game.
“This pitch is perfect for it, very abrasive.”
Anderson expects the reverse effect to continue all game, and Gambhir is confident Zaheer and Ishant Sharma will provide a stern test for England’s batsmen, too.
“It reversed big, so if we can put 350 on the board it’s going to be a good contest,” said the India opener.
“Zaheer Khan is a master of reverse-swing, so if he gets going it will be very difficult for England.”
Anderson already appears to have put the tourists ahead of the game, though, and ought to have power to add both today and in the second innings, when Tendulkar will be in his sights again.
“I don’t think I’ve got a (particular) way of getting him out, or bowl better at him than anyone else,” he said.
“It’s just one of those things that I’ve happened to get him out eight times.”
It is a decidedly handy knack nonetheless, and one England must hope he does not lose just yet.
Anderson picked up Tendulkar with a ball 74 overs old and it left the India legend without a Test century in his last 29 innings dating back to early 2011.
Spinners Monty Panesar (2-74) and Graeme Swann (1-46) were also among the wickets as England took the upper hand in the match.
Captain Cook sure Giles will be welcome addition
Alastair Cook is confident England’s decision to split coaching duties between Andy Flower and Ashley Giles is a significant step in the right direction.
Former England spinner and Ashes-winner Giles will begin his first assignment as specialist limited-overs coach when Cook’s team return to India after Christmas.
Team director Flower will remain in charge of the Test squad, as he is at present for the series against India.
Cook believes the same strategy which split the workload and allowed three different England captains to concentrate on a format each, until Andrew Strauss’s recent retirement, will prove a winner for the coaching staff, too.
Asked whether Giles’s appointment could conceivably diminish Flower’s authority, England’s Test and one-day international captain said: “Not at all.
“It is very clear that he is still the team director, and to me it is very similar to what happened with the three captains.
“That worked well, and there is no reason why this can’t work well with the people involved.
“Having three captains gave new energy to each form of the game, and I can see that happening here.”
Cook concedes the ground-breaking policy – England are the first national team to go down this route – will have to be tested.
“The coaches will have a little more time to prepare for each series,” he said.
“It is new, so it is virgin territory, but I can’t see why it won’t work really well.
“It’s great that we’ve managed to keep hold of Andy – he’s a great person to be involved with – and we’re also adding more experience into the coaching team with Ashley coming on board. It is exciting times.”
He is a great admirer of Giles, too. “What he has got is a lot of success at Warwickshire – he’s turned that club around. He is a really good character; he knows what it takes to succeed at international level.”