England assumed control of the First Test and the npower Series against India yesterday. Their bowling attack, which was assembled on a wing and a prayer, severely discomfited India's batting line-up which was manufactured next door to heaven.
The home team's batsmen then prolonged the tourists' agony and probably their wait for a series victory away from home. It is 16 years since India won a rubber overseas and a deficit of 450, which is bound to grow today, does not suggest this will alter in a hurry. On a Lord's pitch which betrayed few indications of peril, the home side established a formidable first-innings lead of 266 which they increased immediately by deciding to bat again to allow their bowlers a rest. India were left likely having to make the highest fourth-innings score to win a match.
Only the fact that their opponents already hold the record suggests it would be wise for England not to take too much for granted. But they established a platform for victory with deep foundations.
When the side was first selected and then reduced by injuries, it was much more than they must have expected possible. In the process, they might, just might, have discovered a fast bowler for the next generation. The debutant, Simon Jones, born and bred in Wales with England in mind, being the son of the former Test fast bowler, Jeff Jones, took two wickets and with luck could have had three more. He twice narrowly missed the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar, the most prized of all victims.
First, the ball skewed past the Little Master's stumps from his thigh, then he was put down at first slip by Graham Thorpe. Jones, to his credit, grimaced but then got on with his job of bowling fast. He had his reward later.
If he was not the main contributor to an England seam attack which acquitted itself admirably, the cut of his jib suggested that he is here to stay. The world loves speed and Jones provided it.
India played loosely too often when it mattered after an early attempt to dig in. They were again culpable when England batted again. Two, perhaps three chances went begging as England built on their handsome lead. Michael Vaughan put a first-innings duck behind him by scoring a half-century, as did John Crawley, his second of the match.
Any target is surely beyond India. The match is there for them to save but England should have other things to say.
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