Rahul Dravid (right) and Gautam Gambhir leave the field at the end of play on the third day of the third Test. (AP Photo)
Birmingham: The lights went out for India at Edgbaston on Friday.
Not even the failure of the floodlights, which led to two farcical delays, could provide any relief for the visitors, who were outclassed in every department on day three of the third Test.
England’s domination resembled the ruthlessness of the great West Indies side of the 1980s and the Australia team of a decade ago.
India closed on 35-1, still trailing by a daunting 451 after England declared on 710-7 helped by Alastair Cook’s 294. The hosts are on the verge of clinching the series with one match remaining and toppling India as the world’s top-ranked test team.
But despite a classy innings by Cook on Friday, it wasn’t one of Test cricket’s finest days—and not just because of the complete mismatch between the teams.
For most of the day the action was stilted as the hosts were twice interrupted by rain and twice more because of bad light.
An electrical failure knocked out the power in the new 32 million pounds ( $ 52 million) New Stand at lunch. It was restored an hour after play resumed—only for the floodlights to fail.
Under the laws of cricket, the decision to take players off for bad light is now at the sole discretion of the umpires.
The regulations state that players should only be taken off if conditions are either “dangerous or unreasonable.” Under law eight, “conditions should not be regarded as either dangerous or unplayable merely because they are not ideal.”
With Cook on 233 and Eoin Morgan on 89, and with spinners Suresh Raina and Amit Mishra bowling, that seemed debatable and the crowd greeted the initial 16-minute delay with derision, booing and slow handclapping the umpires.
India hadn’t had much to smile about, but captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and VVS Laxman walked off the field sporting broad grins after an unexpected reprieve from England’s onslaught.
Former England opener Geoffrey Boycott mocked the decision to come off.
“You’re queuing up to bat against (Suresh) Raina in this light,” Boycott said while commentating for the BBC. “My grandmother could have played him with a stick of rhubarb.”
The one-sided nature of the contest didn’t enthrall the crowd, many of whom were distracted by a plastic beach ball being pushed around the Eric Hollies stand—and the mood turned to anger when the umpires again ordered the players off after 50 minutes of the evening session.
The president of the MCC, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, described the decision — taken on the grounds of consistency—as “indefensible.”
For the unflappable Cook, who racked up his highest ever Test score over 13 hours and 545 balls, it at least provided a welcome break.
“There was lots of stop-start (cricket) and it was quite a strange day all round,” he said. “But I quite enjoyed sitting down.”