Ganguly passes Test

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The Independent Online
In England, the gap between County and Test cricket is vast. Whenever a player is picked for his first Test match, there is almost always a nagging doubt whether or not he will be able to cross that divide. The recent number of players who have had only one or two Test matches is evidence of this; sadly, so too is Mark Ramprakash.

This was highlighted by the performance of Saurav Ganguly, who made 131 for India at Lord's in his first Test innings. It was not simply that he became only the third batsman to score a hundred at Lord's in his first Test match, it was the way in which he played his innings.

After the losing the First Test, India decided to play an extra batsman at Lord's, and so Ganguly took the place of the left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi. When Sanjay Manjrekar failed to pass a fitness test and dropped out on the morning of the match, Ganguly, who is 22, was elevated from No 6 in the order to No 3.

He came in on Friday evening in the 12th over of the Indian innings when Vikram Rathore was out with the score 25, having already taken Nasser Hussain's wicket in his first over of bowling in Test cricket. He could hardly have been under more pressure and yet from his first ball he batted with even more composure than he had shown at Old Trafford in the third limited overs international.

His left-handedness was a great help to India, too, because it upset the line of England's seam bowlers. He played a couple of cover drives that evening which told of a special talent. He pushed into the mid-wicket gap, he pulled and square cut when he had the chance, and in between he sheltered behind a well-organised defensive technique. He is a slightly built man with an impeccable temperament, and he never once flapped during his innings, although in the penultimate over on the second day he was lucky when an unwise pull lobbed the ball between two fielders on the leg side.

On Saturday, he went on in his unruffled and composed way to his century. He was never disconcerted, even when he played and missed, as left-handers are prone to do against bowlers operating from over the wicket.

The cover drive off Dominic Cork which brought him to his century was as nerveless as it was well-timed. Ganguly is a high-class batsman who will always be a joy to watch in the years ahead, and India are lucky indeed to have such a formidable talent at their disposal.