Wednesday, 21 November 2012

England in India – 1st Test

by Sampad Sengupta

Despite captain Alastair Cook’s best efforts, England slumped to defeat at the hands of India in the first of four Test matches to be played over the next month in the subcontinent. The first Test played at Ahmedabad ended with India winning by 9 wickets in a match which somewhat failed to live up to expectations.

It all started with Cook and the England team management making a blunder in team selections when they decided to field three quick bowlers and only one specialist spinner in Graeme Swann. Some may call it a brave decision; most would however say it was quite unwise. The subcontinent pitches generally offer a spinners’ paradise. This particular one was no different. As we saw, the pitch turned sharply as the match progressed with the Indian spin duo of Ashwin and Ojha making full use of the conditions.

England, however, only had Swann to turn to, who ended up being their best bowler in the match. Part-time spinner Samit Patel tried his luck and got a wicket. Even Kevin Pietersen rolled his arm over and was awarded with a wicket. England were clearly missing the services of specialist left-arm spinner Monty Panesar (the only other specialist spinner in the squad), who was made to sit and watch from the side-lines. No credit can be taken away from the Indian batsmen, though. A blistering hundred from opener Virender Sehwag and a gritty 206 from Cheteshwar Pujara allowed India to mount on the runs and notch up a huge score in the first innings which set the tone for the game.

All the blame, however, cannot be put on the England bowlers, as their batsmen failed to make much of an impact as well. Apart from skipper Alastair Cook and wicket-keeper Matt Prior, no one showed any resistance and they ended up having to follow-on. All eyes were on middle-order batsman Kevin Pietersen, making his comeback after being axed from the team. Even he failed to make an impact and got out cheaply.

The second innings proved to be a bit different, with India having to struggle hard to get England out this time. The saviours for England once again were Cook and Prior. The duo put together a decent partnership to make sure they avoided an innings defeat. This showed us that no matter what the pitch or conditions may be like, any score can be posted or chased down if you have the right temperament and determination. The middle order faltered once again, which might have exposed a major weak link in the England team for this tour. The match went on into the fifth and final day when India were finally able to get England out and were set a target of 77 runs to win, which they chased down comfortably.

The stars for India were Man of the match Cheteshwar Pujara with the bat (206 n.o. and 41 n.o.) and Pragyan Ojha with the ball (5/45 and 4/120). Out of the 29 wickets that fell, 21 went to spin and only 8 fell to pace. This gives us a clear indication of what we may expect throughout the series. The England team management must also take note of this and get their team right for the next match, bringing another specialist spinner into the starting 11. They might also want to take a closer look at their middle order, which faltered on both innings here against their oldest enemy: spin bowling. India would be pleased with the result but must not become complacent as England are a team who are well capable of bouncing back.

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