Nagpur: Sachin Tendulkar, for over two decades, has been synonymous to Indian cricket. In every rise and fall, the country has looked up to The Master ' either basking in the glow of his awesome record or banking on him for inspiration to get out of hopelessness.
On Friday, at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha, Sachin, it seemed, was once again the symbol of Indian cricket. But this time, the picture is too bleak even for the optimist.
As Sachin trudged his way back to the pavilion, his middle stump laid low after being tricked by James Anderson's swing, one could visualise Team India's plight… Down and out.
Anderson (three for 24), who had been on fire since the very first over of India's reply, had brought one back sharply into Tendulkar, who was caught on the back foot before inside-edging the ball onto the stumps.
Sheer heartbreak. For Sachin and for the team.
India, at 87 for four at the close of second day's play, are once again being outplayed by the Englishmen, who had, earlier in the day, stretched their first innings to 330. Ever since his arrival at the crease, Sachin didn't look too comfortable.
Monty Panesar beat him twice in a row when he was yet to open his account. His 25-minute stay, which produced just 2 runs, would give the critics a juicy full toss to gorge upon.
Will India be able to stage a comeback? Answering that question wouldn't be that easy.
Given Anderson's present form ' his figures in his last spell, on Friday, reading 4-1-3-2 on a pitch that was said to have nothing much to offer to the pacers ' an arduous task awaits Virat Kohli and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni who are at the crease on 11 and 8 respectively.
While debutant Ravindra Jadeja was slotted at the No.6 position, captain Dhoni promoted himself up the order, at a time when the Indians were in a crisis.
The start couldn't have been any worse for India, as Anderson castled Virender Sehwag, who lasted just two balls. Sehwag was left bamboozled by the late in-swing.
Gautam Gambhir (37) and Cheteswar Pujara (26), having survived initial scares, fought back. But not for long enough.
Unfortunately, just when the duo looked to have settled down nicely, umpire Rod Tucker ruled Pujara out though the ball, as replays suggested, came off his forearm before Ian Bell held on to it excellently at short leg, off the bowling of Graeme Swann.
England then picked up two more to gain the ascendancy.
Gambhir, too, departed soon after the dismissal of Sachin.
Earlier, England started the proceedings with a positive approach as both Matt Prior (57) and Joe Root (73) were focused on rotating the strike than just occupying the crease.
Prior, shouldering his responsibilities for England in the series with admirable commitment, reached his half-century with a cut through the cover-point region, off the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja.
But India's failure to wrap up the England first innings quickly on Friday morning was mainly because of the doggedness of Root, the 21-year-old youngster from Yorkshire.
Stitching a crucial 103-run stand for the sixth wicket with Prior, Root orchestrated another 60-run partnership with Graeme Swann (56) that helped the visitors put on vital runs on the tricky wicket.
Piyush Chawla, with four for 69, was the most successful Indian bowler.