Cricket: Irani is best of the new boys

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The Independent Online
One of the more unusual features of this first Test has been the presence of seven newcomers - four Indians and three Englishmen. Attention has been on all of them at different times on the first two days. They began as equals; after two days a pecking order is already developing.

Vikram Rathore opened for India on Thursday. He played one or two good strokes off the front foot before falling to a poor one off the back against Dominic Cork. He looked apprehensive, perhaps not quite up to it.

Ronnie Irani was given his first bowl before lunch on the first day and, with his fifth ball, one of no particular distinction, he removed Mohammad Azharuddin with the help of Nick Knight's brilliant athleticism at mid- wicket. When he batted yesterday he hit three lovely fours in his first full over; there were seven in all in a stay of 41 minutes and he left behind a glow of good impressions.

He also left one with the feeling that, as well as being a good and confident cricketer, he is a lucky one too, and this is of course an inestimable asset. Besides being a prodigious performer, Ian Botham was, for example, a lucky cricketer. Whenever he was recalled he invariably took a wicket in his first over, often with a bad ball.

In India's first innings Alan Mullally worked hard and bowled well enough to deserve to be given a good run, but whether more than that remains to be seen. On a day and a surface for seam bowlers Min Patel was given two overs as an after-thought when eight wickets had fallen and tea had gone. He overpitched but did nothing that will count against him.

Venkatesh Prasad bowled beautifully for India with the new ball and clearly has a long Test career ahead of him. Paras Mhambrey was tormented by skiers on the boundary, although, like the left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi, who did not get a single over, his bowling is still an unknown quantity.

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