AT 6.10PM yesterday David Orchard and Ashoka De Silva, the two umpires officiating in this third Test match, got together and offered India's batsmen the light. With the evening gloom descending and the visitors in a position of total control, the majority of the full-house crowd here looked at this as an opportunity to beat the traffic.
England had accepted the invitation to leave the field at Trent Bridge in the last Test. How wrong they were and what fools they were to leave then. Yesterday the play had been one-sided and India were cruising along untroubled in second gear, but following a quick chat between Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar all hell was let loose as the pair left a trail of carnage over this famous old ground that will require some clearing up by England today.
In 50 glorious minutes, which ended when Nasser Hussain's complaints about the light - no doubt for fear that his players were going to be decapitated by low flying missiles - were upheld by the umpires, India left England's bowlers licking wounds that will take some time to heal.
India were on 488 for 3 when England took the third new ball but in the next 11.1 overs before Ganguly was bowled by Alex Tudor, the captain and Tendulkar smashed 96 runs that included five sixes and nine fours Both passed significant landmarks during their mammoth partnership of 249. Tendulkar moved to 185 not out, his highest score against England, and Ganguly completed his ninth Test century. Ashley Giles, who thus far had done a reasonable job in containing these two, received the worst mauling. He went for 23 runs in an over.
The manner in which India had played until then gave no inclination of what lay ahead. While the intention was more positive than on the first day Rahul Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly seemed more concerned with not throwing away their hard-earned advantage than taking England apart.
After two failures during the first Test at Lord's questions were asked about the temperament, form and hunger of Tendulkar. Some pointed to the fact that when India appeared to need him most the little master failed to produce a match-winning performance.
Even though Tendulkar has everything a sportsman could wish for, this is hogwash, and yesterday's century, his 30th in Test cricket, proved that all three of his supposed shortcomings are mythical. His hundred, which took him past Don Bradman and into second place on the all-time list of century makers and four behind his mentor Sunil Gavaskar, was like so many of his, full of crisp, clean clips and cuts as well as powerful drives. It was the equal of Dravid's both in style and value to the side.
If a shot stood out before he decided to go ballistic, it was the one that took him to 50. Initially he looked to leave a shortish ball from Alex Tudor but at the last moment he changed his mind and pulled him in the style of a right-handed Brian Lara. With his left leg bent and in the air the ball raced through mid-wicket for four.
Together he and Dravid put on 150 with relative ease against an England attack already running short of ideas. After a poor day at the office on Thursday, and a 55-minute delay while early morning rain passed through Leeds, Hussain's bowlers were once again given grey, overcast conditions, but yet again they failed to make the most of them.
The indifferent …