Injured Zaheer could be out of series

Odds will shorten on an England victory if India learn today that hamstring trouble has ruled out their premier paceman

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The Independent Online

Advantage England. Just. But while a total of 127 for 2 at the end of a day cut short by bad weather is neither here nor there, the home team's position could look considerably stronger before a ball is delivered at Lord's today with India's key bowler, Zaheer Khan, under an injury cloud.

Zaheer was comfortably the pick of the visitors' attack, dismissing both Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss after India had won the toss. But, having sent down 13.3 overs and conceded only 18 runs, the left-arm paceman pulled up in pain with a hamstring problem which not only threatens his participation in the remainder of the first Test but could also put him in doubt for the bulk of this four-match series.

India would only say last night that the injury was being "investigated" and they should be able to reveal more today. If Zaheer takes the field then the tourists will breathe a sigh of relief; if not, and the damage to his right hamstring is severe, then the odds on England winning this series and taking over as the world's No 1 Test team will shorten.

"Zaheer showed he is the bowler we have missed the most [when he was rested for the recent tour of the Caribbean]," said India coach Duncan Fletcher. "He bowled very well and was probably the one who could have got us a third wicket so he was quite a loss when he went off [at 107 for 2].

"It's important to see how things come out [regarding the injury]. It is best to wait and then we'll have a better idea of how we are going to progress in the future."

With England put in on a damp morning, and given how much the new ball swung during the 49 overs that were possible before rain returned just before tea, India must have anticipated taking four or five wickets. Fletcher insisted, though, they would have been satisfied with three.

India twice reprieved Jonathan Trott, who finished unbeaten on 58, but Fletcher described both chances as being "very difficult". And the former England coach was also content with the intensity shown by his new team, saying: "They were really up for the game and gave it their best shot."

So did Trott, as always: "I think it is pretty even," said the batsman. "We are pretty happy with the situation we find ourselves in but there's a lot of hard work still to do."

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