The most anticipated test series since the last Ashes has finally arrived. England name an unchanged side while India have many of their superstars returning from a break, which they took during the West Indies series. Kumar and Raina keep their places after good recent performances. M.S. Dhoni won the toss and decided to field, an easy choice considering the conditions, dark and cloudy with forecasts indicating rain at some point during the day.
When Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook walked out to the middle everyone was wondering how Strauss would fare against Zaheer Khan. After a tentative start, Andrew Strauss settles down with Cook to play a nervy hour in difficult conditions, with the ball swinging and seaming a great deal. Both were struggling to score, but Strauss looked the more likely to wicket to fall. However, the first loss of wicket was Alistair Cook lbw to Zaheer Khan, caught on the back foot trying to play a ball that nipped back to the leg side. It was clever bowling by Zaheer Khan using an in-swinger, which caught Cook unawares, as the majority of Zaheer’s previous balls were out-swingers in or around off stump.
As ever, Trott came in at number three and performed excellently in a testing situation where England were struggling to make many runs, but yesterday was not a day to attack, it was a day to survive. England did this. There was only one genuine chance, an outside edge off of Trott, but it was a difficult dive low and to the right of Dravid at first slip. Overall, a good morning session for England as they went for lunch with 43 runs, but crucially only one wicket down.
Unfortunately just after lunch Strauss threw away his wicket after a great deal of hard work in the morning session. Zaheer surprised Strauss with a bouncer wide outside off stump, which he attempted pull and was caught comfortably at deep fine leg. The Indians strategy and planning could take credit for this wicket, having left two men out deep on the leg side, but it was just a poor choice of shot.
A difficult period followed with Pieterson and Trott both struggling to find runs due to a sustained period of tight bowling from Zaheer Khan and Kumar. Pieterson was incredibly lucky. He struggled with his footwork and couldn’t find any rhythm and was lucky not to find himself caught in the slip cordon.
It was Trott though that gave India their best chance of a wicket. It was an edge off Zaheer which Dhoni dived towards, but pulled out of at the last moment. Perhaps the pivotal moment of the match, possibly the series occurred in when Zaheer Khan, who had looked dangerous, pulled up and left the field due to a potential hamstring injury in the middle of another excellent spell.
After this the momentum shifted subtly, as the batsman found it easier to find runs and Trott brought up a well deserved half century. He is England’s “Mr Reliable” and now has the second best average of all time. If he continues to play in this way he will soon cement his place as one of the greatest. The afternoon session ended early, due to bad light with England at 127-2. Unfortunately, for everyone the heavens opened and despite the best efforts of officials there was no further play for the day.
However disappointing for the spectators this may have been the best outcome for England, as they avoided a particularly dangerous hour or so after tea when the weather seemed to have eased. Tomorrow, England will look to push towards a large score on a pitch that looks excellent for batting against a weakened Indian bowling attack.
England 1st Innings
c Ishant Sharma
b Z Khan
b Z Khan
1w 8b 4lb
Fall of wicket
Umpires: Asad Rauf, B F Bowden, R S Madugalle, M Erasmus
England: Strauss (C), Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Morgan, Prior (W), Broad, Swann, Tremlett, Anderson
India: Mukund, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Raina, Dhoni (C/W), Harbhajan Singh, Z Khan, Kumar, Ishant Sharma