England v India: Hosts fail to make the most of favourable conditions on a day of missed opportunities
Second Test evenly poised with all results still looking possible
Thursday 17 July 2014
The more English cricket tries to wriggle its way into a new era, the more it seems to sink into the quicksand of controversy.
Their leading bowler finds himself the subject of an ICC investigation after an alleged bust-up with an opposition player, and less seriously, but far more amusingly, one of their brightest new talents has also hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
If this England side truly want to reconnect with the fans then hats must surely be doffed to Gary Ballance, whose shirtless antics in the gloriously named Pandora's Box nightclub in Nottingham, have won more hearts and minds than any jargon-filled press release ever could.
It may never make the Christmas compendiums of great cricketing quotes, but Ballance's: “I'm not a cricketer tonight, I'm just a drunken b*****d” is truly a line for the ages.
Perhaps one man who relished all of these off-field distractions was Lord's groundsman Mick Hunt, who following the torpor of Trent Bridge was under some pressure to produce an entertaining surface.
For all that it might suit this England side, Test series are not won or lost on the dancefloors of the Midlands, but rather 22 yards of cut grass, preferably prepared to the home side's advantage.
There would then have been relief from England's players to see a healthy green tinge to the wicket this morning - more Kermit, less Kolkata - and Alastair Cook leapt at the opportunity to bowl first.
Ultimately though England did not make the most of the favourable conditions. It was, on reflection, a day of missed opportunities.
One excellent session was sandwiched between the all too familiar bread of sessions punctuated by poorly executed bowling plans and minor fielding mistakes.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad were guilty of wasting the early overs, the former's five opening maidens on the trot not a sign of tight bowling but rather an inability to make the opposition batsmen play.
A couple of dropped catches from Matt Prior, sadly becoming an ever-increasing occurrence, only adding to the sense that England had blown the chance to make a blistering start to the match.
After lunch the bowlers found their length and to the surprise of absolutely nobody they were rewarded with wickets - reassuring and galling in equal measure, the folly of the morning's profligacy was underlined with every dismissal.
In the end though the day really belonged to Ajinkya Rahane, whose century rescued India from 145/7 and helped them to 290/9 at the close.
Rahane punished tired bowlers towards the close, producing the shot of the day to hit Anderson over his head for six, but really the pacemen only had themselves to blame for their fatigue - the lack of early wickets coming back to bite them at the death.
The result though is an evenly poised Test, with all results looking possible, and frankly after the nightmare in Nottingham that's all anyone could really ask for.
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