Hussain fails to capitalise on friendly conditions

By Henry Blofeld
Sunday 12 January 2014 04:14

India were 61 for 2 at lunch and England may not have been too disheartened when they went in to take their places around the table... but they should have been. The ball swung around all over the place in the morning session when it was hard and new. Matthew Hoggard, in particular, bowled extremely well, moving the ball consistently away from the right-hander with three slips and two gullies in close attendance.

Several times he beat the bat and on these occasions it is easy for a bowler to shrug his shoulders and persuade himself that it is one of those days when the luck is against you. The tactics were right, England waged a successful war of attrition, but only two wickets fell.

These were conditions in which England should have taken at least four wickets before lunch and Hoggard and his captain, Nasser Hussain, must share the blame for their failure to capitalise on what nature had given them. Hoggard's line made life easier for the right-hander than he might have done.

He bowled on or outside the off stump and for over after over the batsmen were able to watch the ball swing away past their bats and through to Alec Stewart behind the stumps. Hoggard should have been aiming to start the ball at least on the line of the middle stump if not the middle and leg stumps.

If he had done that, the batsmen would have been drawn into the stroke much more often than they were and the slips and gullies would not have had such a frustrating morning. Hoggard will, no doubt, be kicking himself for failing to make a minor adjustment to his radar.

But he was not helped by his captain, who insisted on giving him a field with seven men on the offside and only two on the leg: a mid-on and a deep backward square. Hoggard knew that the one thing that he must not do is bowl the ball on the right-hander's legs for, with all those gaping holes on that side of the wicket, life would have been easy for the batsman.

In order to avoid doing this, he overcorrected and bowled a fraction too wide on the offside. There was only one legside half-volley from Hoggard which Sachin Tendulkar dispatched with the greatest of ease and elegance to the mid-wicket boundary.

If Hussain had allowed him just one more protective fielder on this side of the wicket, at mid-wicket, it would have given Hoggard the security to bowl the more attacking line, to say nothing of the inswinger. This might well have brought him those two extra wickets which England needed in the opening session and which would have prevented India's post-lunch recovery.

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