Just like that, with no warning or feet movement, MS Dhoni freed his arms and got under a Graeme Swann top spinner. Tonked, it landed a few corn-rows over vacant long-on for six. The closest English fielder to the area was Swann himself, who fetched it with a look of utter disbelief pasted on his face. Oases cause a lesser sense of surprise. No fielder had moved in that direction before. They wouldn't again, just like Dhoni wouldn't release his elbows from his ribs thereafter.
The 93rd over of the Indian innings, 52nd of the day, 20th after lunch on Saturday, was an aberration for a few reasons. For one, it made the Twenty20 junkies, brought up on a diet of boundaries, in the stands a happy lot. Two, it brought to an end a period of 21 dot balls. Three, that anomalous stroke brought up India's highest partnership for any wicket in this Test series. With that six, the Indian captain and Virat Kohli had forged a stand of 138 runs, bettering the opening stand by Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir by a run, plotted as far back as the opening day of this series at the Motera.
Dhoni and Kohli would add 60 more to that, but runs weren't of the essence today. Survival was. So in order to save their souls and their team's, Kohli consumed 256 balls on the day, 295 over all. Two hundred and forty one of those were blocked back to the bowler. Dhoni too had similar figures — 189 dots, 246 over all. Never had they consumed so many for an innings respectively, never had India showed as much resistance this series.
Flamboyance or style, hence, had little to with the theatre on Saturday. Apart from Kohli's mighty air punch on reaching his century and the vice like grip of tension when Dhoni was run-out on 99, it wasn't edge of the day stuff. But it was Test cricket at its riveting best. "A real privilege to have been out there on the field today," said Jonathan Trott later. And out there on the field he was, with no reward for 84 overs.
During that time, India clawed back from a hopeless position in this match, and raised ambitions of a comeback in this series. But once the fifth wicket stand was