Harbhajan criticises 'slow' England

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The Independent Online

Harbhajan Singh has criticised England for being "defensive" in their approach after India limited them to a modest total on the opening day of the first Test.

India's premier spinner finished with two for 62 at the Chepauk Stadium as England were restricted to 229 for five despite winning the toss on a wicket which is expected to deteriorate as the match progresses.

Despite a 118-run opening stand and opener Andrew Strauss claiming his 13th Test century, England lost four wickets in the final session and now face a major battle to reach the competitive total they had set there sights on.

"We bowled really well and to restrict them to 229 for five was a really good effort," said Harbhajan.

"England were not really looking to dominate or looking to score runs, they were happy just collecting singles or twos.

"This was probably the best day to bat on this kind of wicket and if we had been batting we'd have got more than 300. They didn't dominate the first two sessions, in the first session they set up the game and they went into defensive mode scoring only 63 runs in the first session.

"They played very defensively because they could easily have scored 300 today, they didn't look to score runs which is good for us. England helped us by not playing their shots and blocking a lot of balls.

"I don't know whether they have respect for my bowling but they played very slowly. Normally this is the kind of wicket where people go after the bowling and even if you don't do that and just play your strokes you should still get 300 runs in a day on this wicket."

Leg-spinner Amit Mishra also claimed a crucial victim shortly before the close to dismiss Strauss for a determined 123, to underline the growing belief that spin could play an influential role.

But Harbhajan has dismissed England's own spin threat of off-spinner Graeme Swann and left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, who he believes will struggle to dominate India's powerful batting line-up.

"We have very good batsmen who can bat against the top spinners," he explained.

"We've done well against Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan and everyone so Monty and the other spinners are not a threat to us.

"I think Freddie (Flintoff) is the kind of bowler who can hit the deck really hard and he can get wickets on any kind of wicket because he has the quality in his bowling. I'm not saying that Monty and the other spinners can't get us out, but it will be hard work for them.

"Their bowling line-up will have a tough time because it's quite hot out there and they're not used to these sort of conditions. Apart from Freddie I don't think they have any other bowler who can definitely get people out. They have spinners but we have quality batsmen."

England ended the day disappointed at their own position after losing Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Strauss in the space of 26 overs after tea to undermine their earlier efforts.

"I'm still seething about getting out just before the end because I felt pretty comfortable out there and I really wanted to go big," admitted Strauss.

"There was some good bowling and Zaheer Khan was excellent, as was Ishant Sharma.

"We didn't have all the luck there either and we'd have liked to have been two wickets less than we are but we still have some pretty good batters to come - we need to get up to 350 or 400 really and if we do that we're in a good position in the game."

But despite his disappointment, Strauss admitted scoring a century in the first Test after the terrorist attacks on Mumbai was "special", adding: "This is an important Test match for the game of cricket.

"It was very important we came out here and played and showed the game of cricket will continue so to get a hundred first up is very special.

"I don't want to over-play my role in things but just the fact the game is taking place is fantastic and the game of cricket is better for it."