Jonathan Trott revelled in India’s frustrations as tempers flared in the home camp on day four of the final Test.
India could find no way past Trott, who finished unbeaten on 66 out of 161-3 as the tourists dug in to try to close out a stalemate in Nagpur in pursuit of a famous series victory.
England reached stumps with a lead of 165 and high hopes they will be able to keep India at bay again today long enough to ensure a draw here and therefore a 2-1 overall success.
Trott was key yesterday, and may well be again this morning when Alastair Cook’s team will be seeking an achievement which has proved beyond all others for England since 1984-85.
Their No 3 was also at the centre of three flashpoint incidents as India became increasingly antagonised by events at the VCA Stadium.
India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin raised the issue of gamesmanship after the day’s play as he failed to share in the apparent general amusement over the first incident, when Trott took advantage – as the Laws of Cricket entitle him to – by hitting a stationary ball for four from well out of his crease.
The delivery had slipped from Ravindra Jadeja’s grasp and trickled to a standstill two-thirds of the way down the pitch.
Asked about India’s frustrations toward Trott, Ashwin said: “It was just one or two words exchanged.
“It was just about the shot that he got away, a rolling ball. It just seemed to us it was a little innocuous.
“When you talk about gamesmanship and sportsmanship I think you should hold by yourself to actually expect the same from opponents.
“We are pushing for a win, but nothing got out of hand.”
Trott also drew the ire of the home team on 43, when seamer Ishant Sharma and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni were convinced they had Trott caught-behind cutting – only for umpire Kumar Dharmasena to disagree.
Lengthy expressions of discontent followed, towards both Trott and the officials, and at one point the batsman responded by mouthing a cheeky kiss towards Ishant from under his helmet grille.
Finally, deep into the evening session, Ashwin was exasperated by Trott backing up too far at the non-striker’s end and stopped in his delivery stride to warn he could run him out.
The off-spinner made it clear that he, for one, did not see the funny side.
“I said I can run him out if he can hit that ball – that’s about it,” Ashwin said, a reference to Trott’s boundary off Jadeja.
“He said you might as well run me out. I said I wouldn’t.”
Ashwin insisted he was never serious about taking revenge by running Trott out backing up.
“I wouldn’t. He’s got out enough times for us to actually get him out again,” he said.
Trott did not seem in the least put off by the altercations, and team-mate James Anderson confirmed that the stoic batsman is unlikely to lose his concentration because of a few pointed remarks in his direction.
“I think he quite enjoys it,” Anderson said.
“Some batsmen are really determined and I think he’s the sort of guy that would relish that battle and really try to get stuck in.”
It is not unknown for fast bowler Anderson to ‘engage’ batsmen verbally himself, but he senses he would not have complained if he had been hit for four like Jadeja.
Asked whether he might have reacted badly in such unusual circumstances, he said: “I don’t know. Probably not – because I’d do it if I was the batsman.
“I think I saw Dhoni laughing about it at one stage, so I don’t think that was the catalyst.
“When we’re in the middle of a tough Test match, a crucial Test match, things are going to get heated from time to time.
“Two teams want to win a game of cricket, with the series on the line, so things do inevitably boil over from time to time.”
England managing director Hugh Morris has lamented the controversial dismissal of Alastair Cook and urged the decision review system (DRS) to be introduced across for the board “for the good of the game”. England captain Cook was given out caught behind by Dhoni despite replays showing he had made no contact with the delivery from off-spinner Ashwin.
The opener had also been adjudged lbw in the first innings when a delivery from Ishant Sharma appeared to be missing leg stump.
India have consistently been opposed to implementing DRS in Test cricket but Morris said: “We made our views pretty clear at the beginning of the series. We believe DRS improves decision-making on the field.
“That has got to be good for the game. It is disappointing we are not using it in this series – and we should be. Over the last few years the DRS has really bedded into our game, has improved our game.
“We should be using it.”
Morris hailed the impact made by Cook with the bat and as captain in his first full series as Test captain.
He said: “Alastair, for the past 15 to 18 months, has been captain of the one-day squad and has really taken that team forward.
“The way he has gone about his business in India has been hugely impressive with the bat and as a leader.
“He has got the respect of the changing room. On his first major tour, he has led the team extremely well.”
Dilshan’s resistance thwarts Australian bowlers
A century from Sri Lanka opener Tillakaratne Dilshan prevented Australia from taking a sizeable lead into their second innings on the third day of the first Test in Hobart.
The hosts will take a 141 run lead with 10 wickets in tact into the fourth day with Michael Clarke’s side ending the day 27 without loss after bowling out the visitors for 336.
That advantage would be far greater were it not for Dilshan’s 147 and 75 from all rounder Angelo Matthews.
Peter Siddle was the pick of the Australian attack, taking 5-54 in 25.3 overs as he staked a claim for a regular spot in their bowling attack.
Dilshan resumed on 50 and made it to 103 before the morning session was curtailed by rain half an hour before the scheduled lunch break.
In a shortened afternoon session he pushed on to 132 as Sri Lanka turned a vulnerable overnight score of 87-4 into a more robust 249-5, responding to Australia’s 450-5 declared.
Mathews lasted until late in the afternoon session before going for 75, trapped lbw by Siddle.
Sri Lanka had reached 289 before Dilshan’s stand finally came to an end, bowled by a yorker from Yorkshire bowler Mitchell Starc after an innings that contained 21 boundaries off 273 deliveries.
Australia still had work to do as Prasanna Jayawardene was providing further resistance, but once he went lbw to Siddle for 40, progress was swift.
The last three wickets went at a cost of just 20 runs. Rangana Herath was Siddle’s third lbw victim for a duck, Nuwan Kulasekara was caught at deep midwicket off Nathan Lyon for 23 and Chanaka Welegedara was caught by Mike Hussey without scoring as Siddle claimed his fifth wicket.
His outstanding performance helped Australia cover for a side injury suffered by Brad Hilfenhaus.
Rain delayed the start of the Australian second innings and only 1.4 overs were bowled before again the weather forced the players off.
Looking to end the day with all their wickets in tact, the hosts were conservative when play resumed as openers David Warner eight off 39 balls and Ed Cowan 16 off 47, saw them to the close.