England’s batting falls flat again, India wins Test by nine wickets


November 19, 2012

Brief Scorecard: India 521 for 8 dec (Pujara 206*, Sehwag 117, Swann 5-144) and 80 for 1 (Pujara 41*) beat England 191 (Ojha 5-45) and 406 (Cook 176, Prior 91, Ojha 4-120) by nine wickets.

November 19, 2012

Brief Scorecard: India 521 for 8 dec (Pujara 206*, Sehwag 117, Swann 5-144) and 80 for 1 (Pujara 41*) beat England 191 (Ojha 5-45) and 406 (Cook 176, Prior 91, Ojha 4-120) by nine wickets.

India vs England First Test at Ahmedabad: Pragyan Ojha took the crucial wickets of Matt Prior and Alastair Cook on the final morning as India cruised to victory

Ahmedabad: India defeated England in the first Test by nine wickets, an outcome that had appeared inevitable ever since MS Dhoni enforced the follow-on on the third day with a lead of 330. But England's Alastair Cook and Matt Prior put on a monumental effort to run India closer than they might have expected.

India won the first Test by nine wickets and in grandstanding style an hour into the afternoon session on the final day, an outcome that had appeared inevitable ever since MS Dhoni enforced the follow-on on the third day with a lead of 330 and a deteriorating pitch to utilize.

Thanks almost entirely to the monumental effort of Alastair Cook and the belligerence and skill of Matt Prior, England managed to run India closer than they might have expected and, at the end of the fourth day, with that pair still at the crease, there was still the faintest sniff of salvaging something from the wreckage.

It can be better, though, as Robert Louis Stevenson said, to travel hopefully than to arrive. The last five wickets falling for 66 runs in the morning session, including those of Prior for 91 and then Cook for 176, shattered the dream.

To make 406 second time round was a creditworthy riposte but it left India only 77 runs to get, which they achieved in 15.3 overs, for the loss of Virender Sehwag who, with an early appointment perhaps, was caught on the boundary for 25. But Cheteshwar Pujara, opening in place of the bereaved Gautam Gambhir, whose grandmother has died, batted with freedom once more, hitting eight boundaries to make an unbeaten 41 and take his total for the match to 247 without being dismissed.

There had been some talk that the second Test, in Mumbai, and the third in Kolkata be switched because of reports that there might be unrest in Mumbai in the week following Sunday's funeral of the Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackery. But the teams will now decamp as planned to Mumbai where they will resume the series at Wankhede Stadium on Friday. As far as India are concerned, there will be little to ponder after such a resounding success.

For England, though, there will have to be some serious thought over the next few days in light of some woeful performances.

India might have been considered favorite from the moment Cook called wrongly at the toss, and of course that had an impact, offering the best of the batting conditions to India. But it would be facile to suggest that the result might have been different had England had first use of the pitch.

England's seam bowling, on which they had pinned hopes rather than the dual spin of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, failed to come even close to expectation. Sluggish this pitch may have been at the start and even more so as the game wore on, but collectively the three pacemen were slower through the air than their two Indian counterparts, largely bowled indifferent lines, and failed almost totally to get the kind of reverse swing, supposed to be their forte, that Zaheer Khan and the slippery Umesh Yadav managed. They actually proved to be more destructive than spin to England's middle order in the second innings.

Between them Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan conceded 255 runs in the Test for a single wicket to Anderson. Zaheer and Yadav took seven for 166.

The incredible diligence of Cook and Prior, and Nick Compton's contribution to the opening stand of 123 that kick-started the second-innings recovery, should not be allowed to paper over deficiencies elsewhere.

Cook and Prior scored 356 of England's runs: contributions from the remaining five of the top seven amounted to a grand total of 114. Kevin Pietersen's return has hardly been the homecoming many expected, and it is hard to comprehend how a player of world class can be reduced to a staggering arms-and-legs whirl of ineptitude when encountering a left-arm spinner who is good but not that good.

Ian Bell's second-innings batting, at least for a while, highlighted even further the crassness of his first-ball dismissal in the first innings, but he will return home now for the birth of his first child knowing that he runs the risk of not regaining a place when he returns.

His spot will be taken either by Jonny Bairstow (whose hundred in a warm-up game should be tempered by the fact that centuries were also scored in those games by Cook, Samit Patel, Pietersen, and Jonathan Trott) or Eoin Morgan. Or perhaps both. Certainly there is a case for Morgan, as a left hander, being in a better position to counter the spin of Pragyan Ojha, which ultimately England found more problematical than Ravichandran Ashwin's bag of tricks. If both play it would mean ditching Patel.

The idea that they can go in with a batsman light in order to pick Panesar as a foil to Swann just seems even more preposterous now. But, for a four-man attack, a seamer would have to go, and perhaps two if it was decided that Steven Finn should play. Could he play as one of two, operating in short bursts, with the attack based around spin? If so it should be he and Anderson.

England's hopes on the final day rested on Cook and Prior being able to extend their partnership into the afternoon. But the pitch was more capricious now, slowing almost to a halt and with variable bounce for Ojha. Prior was undone when the ball stopped and sat up on him as he was attempting a back-foot force and he sent back a gentle return catch.

Cook, after nine hours and 374 deliveries, found himself torpedoed, scuttled, by a length delivery that turned back at him and scuttled close to the ground before bowling him off his pad. Maybe they will call him Tirpitz. If it was the sort of delivery that he had pushed away time and again during his innings, then perhaps he was thinking of working it to leg. That it took something so insidious to see the back of him tells its story.

Courtesy: guardian