England's lack of spin twin fully exploited by Sehwag
India 323-4 v England: Swann wickets bring late cheer but India take control as tourists regret not picking Panesar
By the time the first drinks were taken on the first morning of the first Test yesterday, England had made their first dreadful mistake. There was nothing they could do about it because that particular tuk-tuk had already chugged off into the distance.
Monty Panesar may as well have been on board it, rather than in the dressing room watching the scintillating events unfold. The tourists knew that they could and should have played two spinners against India on a flat, dry pitch.
It might not have curbed the brilliance of Virender Sehwag who scored the most delightful of hundreds, his 23rd in Tests and his first for two years and 31 innings. But it would have given England an extra dimension, perhaps a slender chance to impede India's exuberant early charge.
Sehwag, circumspect at the start by his own extrovert standards, gave his side control with a breathtaking display. He opened the face of the bat late and at will, he whipped the ball through the leg side, he inevitably beat the field.
He was going merrily along at greater than a run a ball and this, it had to be remembered, in the opening session of a series. England had little response. They gave Sehwag too much width but he epitomises the eternal truth: give him an inch and he will take a yard.
How different it was from the last time he had confronted England in Tests away from home. In 2011, recovering belatedly from injury, Sehwag was thrust into a struggling team on his arrival in the country. At Edgbaston he scored a king pair, both times driving and edging behind. Different conditions, different country
Graeme Swann rescued England from the mire, if there is such a geographical entity in Ahmedabad, by taking their only four wickets of the day, bowling compactly, turning it, waiting for and inviting mistakes. But there was no Panesar to help him.
After an apprehensive start when he might have been either toyed with or overwhelmed, Samit Patel, who is actually in the role of second spinner, did well in the final session when England restricted India to 73 runs. But Patel is a batsman who bowls and India know it.
It would be wrong to assume that Panesar is the answer to England's chances in this series with one day down out of 20. But the seamers were impotent as well as wicketless yesterday, the reverse swing they briefly managed bringing no reward. Tim Bresnan, the third seamer, was allowed only 10 overs. He was denied a wicket by one of England's four significant fielding lapses but conceding 56 runs felt like he had gone round the park in a one-day match. It was off Bresnan's bowling that Jimmy Anderson missed an opportunity to catch Cheteshwar Pujara, who was still there at the end, when he misjudged the flight at mid–off.
Of the two other fast men, Stuart Broad, who started the match as the leading wicket taker in Tests this year, bowled like a man short of match practice, which he is. Anderson improved as the day wore on and he had Sehwag dropped on 80 down the leg side by Matt Prior.
It was the first of Prior's two lapses in successive overs, a stumping eluding him when a ball from Swann turned and lifted past Gautam Gambhir's bat. Late in the day, Jonathan Trott should have caught Virat Kohli at slip. His error, forgivable for a man who has just taken up the position, was compounded by his claim not to know whether he had grounded the ball after a failed juggle. No harm done perhaps since the umpires checked the replay but it did not look altogether judicious behaviour.
That England were not wholly out of the match was thanks to Swann, who bowled precisely and patiently, and overtook the great Jim Laker as England's leading off-spinner to boot. He earned the breakthrough for which his side and his new captain, Alastair Cook, were desperate, in the 30th over.
India, by then were rattling along at four an over and Sehwag was doing much as he pleased which for most of the time in this mood was extracting the Michael out of Jimmy, Stuart and Tim. His long-term opening partner had been on sentry duty by comparison, putting Sehwag's nonchalant aggression into perspective.
But the pair had shared their 11th Test century opening partnership when Gambhir stayed back to Swann and saw the ball turn past his bat and hit off stump. Another 97 runs had been added when Swann turned one through Sehwag's expansive slog sweep.
These were both precious wickets but that of Sachin Tendulkar never palls and Swann claimed him for the third time. Tendulkar, essaying an aerial shot to leg, failed to make the pitch and holed out. Finally, Swann had the boy genius, Kohli, pushing one through a farmyard gate. These were all grand wickets, three of them, unusually, clean bowled.
The least illustrious (for now) of India's top quintet was still there at the close. Pujara has taken over from Rahul Dravid at No 3, a task that may (but may not) be only slightly less difficult than taking over from Tendulkar at No 4.
It would be disrespectful to Dravid to suggest that it was not possible to see the join but it was a shapely, proper Test innings of 98 not out. Pujara finished proceedings with a rasping four to remind everyone whose day it had been.
Timeline: How the opening day unfolded in Ahmedabad
3:45am GMT: Early start for Sky team
Viewers turn on to hear Bumble et al commentating from Isleworth not India due to the contract dispute. An early start, then, for the Sky team so used to being on tour with the boys.
4am: England get things rolling
Insomniacs and early birds tune in to see Gautam Gambhir hit the first ball of the series for a single off Jimmy Anderson.
6am: Openers stroll to lunch, 120-0
Virender Sehwag and Gambhir have had an easy time of it during the morning session, Sehwag reaching his fifty off only 45 balls.
6:45am: Catch me if you can
Matt Prior is having a bit of a stinker with the gloves here, dropping Sehwag and Gambhir in the first two overs after lunch off Anderson and Graeme Swann...
6:45am: Wicket, Gambhir b Swann 45
... before Swann breaches Gambhir's defences and clatters his off-stump, becoming England's most prolific ever off-spinner.
7:30am: Sehwag century
The opener gets his ton off just 90 balls by hitting Swann to the boundary, moving him to fourth on the list of Indian centurions.
8:10am: Wicket, Sehwag b Swann 117
Swann is enjoying an impressive spell and tricks Sehwag into missing completely to end the opener's superb innings. Sachin Tendulkar is about to come in...
8:30am: Wicket, Tendulkar c Patel b Swann 13
...and is caught out fairly promptly with a slog sweep that goes straight down Samit Patel's throat).
11am: Close of Play - India 323-4
Swann bowls Virat Kohli but India hold out until the end with Cheteshwar Pajura cracking a four off the last ball of the day.
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