Bowler's blow came as tourists were on verge of seizing control


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The Independent Online

Perhaps the most significant event of the year's blue riband Test series took place at 3.10pm on its first day. England were struggling valiantly to come to terms with difficult batting conditions, India were striving to take advantage of favourable circumstances for bowling.

If anything, England might have been the more pleased but it was a close call and precarious enough out in the middle for swift recalculations to be necessary about the balance of power. Zaheer Khan was in his 14th over of a day on which he had already demonstrated his mastery of the craft of fast bowling and claimed the wickets of both the opponents' opening batsmen with some truly slippery, thoughtful work.

He reached the stumps, released the ball but never made the follow-through. He pulled up, felt immediately around the back of his right leg and the sages knew right away that a hamstring had twanged as he stretched in the delivery stride.

There was no question of completing the over; there may be no question of his completing the match or the series. On the scant evidence of the other bowling on display yesterday India's chances of winning by the end of this summer may have hobbled with him through the Long Room. The full extent of the injury will not be clear until today but the indications were that he will not make an early return to action.

By the premature close, although it was not confirmed until two and a half hours after play had been halted, England had reached 127 for 2. Jonathan Trott was playing his usual diligent role while Kevin Pietersen was taking on the self-denial he generally fails to reach.

There were several attempts to resume, all of them greeted with anxious looks on the England dressing-room balcony. Only one team could gain advantage from more play, even short of their most impressive bowler.

The manner in which Zaheer dismissed both Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss was a pleasure to see in action. He trapped Cook lbw, while Strauss fell attempting a hook shot. At 62 for 2 with the ball still doing plenty, it was a position custom-built for Trott. He was never really in, but India did not bowl enough balls at the stumps of sufficient length to discomfit him and he reached his 12th score above 50 in 35 Test innings.