If you were one of those who followed the first test over
the last five days, you will have no doubts whatsoever in your mind that
England was the better of the two sides and India kept playing catch up all the
time, only to succumb before the sun had set on the pristine turf at Lord’s.
It had started on the first day itself when England was put
into bat when the clouds were thick and Indians wanted to make first use of the
conditions to their favour. It was not to be as the four pronged Indian attack
was reduced to three when Zak limped off the field clutching his hammy. In one
stroke of ill luck, Indians were pushed onto backfoot, and chased the red
cherry all over the park with Kevin Pieterson making merry and short work of
some friendly fare dished out by the three man Indian attack, supported for a
short while by MSD. In the final analysis that knock proved to be the
difference between the draw and loss for India. Win of course was out of question.
It wasn’t Kevin alone. On day 4, when England looked in bit
of a trouble with Ishant finding elusive rhythm over a period of some
sensational fast bowling, Prior (103*) and Broad (74*) put their hand up to
resurrect the England innings from a perilous 130 odd for 6. Ishant had bowled
with a lot of fire to take a page from Broad’s book to bowl full and mix it up
with some peppery short stuff to create a semblance of chance for India. It was
not to be as Harbhajan struggled to keep the pressure up and Ishant tired out
after a marathon spell of 11 overs claiming three in the first session. From
thereon it was a Prior and Broad show on the Broadway of Lord’s. India had a
mammoth task of chasing 458 with well over four sessions remaining to play out
for a draw. Well that was the only positive result likely for India. England
was moving in for the kill.
India has showed a penchant to fightback from unlikely spots
in recent times with someone or other putting a hand up to save the day when
the going got tough. But this England bowling attack was equal to the task. The
signs were ominous for India after Gambhir was injured fielding at short leg
and Tendulkar was out with a viral fever for the entire of day 4 and could bat down
the order on the final day.
Anderson led the attack superbly to claim a fifer that he
will cherish for a long time. He removed Dravid with an out swinger early in
the day and then kept a tight leash on Tendulkar throughout his stay at crease.
On the other end runs were hard to come by and threat of wicket loomed large
all the time. Even the sublime Laxman was fooled into a needless pull scoring a
resilient but inadequate 56. Dhoni’s troubles as a captain followed Dhoni the
batsman and he perished after poking at a delivery outside off stump to Prior.
It was a matter of time from thereon.
In a losing cause, Raina decided to bring out the choicest
of strokes in his armour to score a glorious a half century, which he will
remember for the occasion, if not for the end result itself. Indians tried
their best to hang in, only to see them slip inch by inch into the deep abyss
of defeat as the day progressed.
England combined the fine all-round show with some good luck
to gain the one up advantage over India. As a captain Strauss has reasons to
believe that he has the best bowling resources to decimate the best batting
line-up in the world and the competent batting unit to take full advantage of
any largesse by the opposition bowling.
Dhoni’s men now face an uphill task ahead of them. The first
test has opened the potential of this English line-up to him. Bhajji’s lack of
wickets, injury to Zak and Gambhir, Tendulkar’s tentativeness (or the burden of
the 100th every time he walks into bat) and his own batting form
will be some of the issues that he will have to address when India walk in for
the next test on Friday. He doesn’t have to look further for inspiration. It
was Stuart Broad, the man everybody raised their eyebrows on, who came to the
party with a fine all-round performance to clinch the 2000th test
for the nation who gave cricket to the world, at the home of cricket.
As the number one test team India have the knowhow and
pedigree required to come back from the brinks. They have shown the penchant to
fight and have held better than most of the Indian visiting sides. The next three
tests will prove whether they can hold their own against a team that threatens
to take over the mantle of number one. It will make for a gripping watch.
PS: Who is your
MoM? I thought Broad had an upper hand over KP. He will sure be chuffed at the
panel apart from the guys who dropped so many catches off his bowling to deny
him a fifer.