By BV Swagath
England showed resolute defence right till the end to finish a dull opening day’s play at 199 for 5. India with four spinners in its bowling attack sent down as many as 97 overs on a pitch that was up and down because of cracks all around. It was a crucial partnership between debutant Joe Root (31* from 110 balls) and Matt Prior (34* from 83 balls) which defied India in the final session to rescue the visitors from a precarious position of 139 for 5.
The last session saw Ravindra Jadeja take the all important wicket of the well set Kevin Pietersen who charged down the track for a flick shot in the air but only to get caught by the forward diving Ojha at mid wicket in the 68th over. Pietersen settled with a score of 73 in 188 balls with 10 fours in what was a very slow knock according to his high standards. India was all over England but the pair of Root and Prior had no problems in surviving for the day.
Amongst the four spinners, Dhoni had Ojha bowling 27 overs while Jadeja came in to bowl 25 overs for just 34 runs. Chawla and Ashwin had bowled only 13 overs each. Ishant Sharma, the lone pacer in the team sent down 19 overs giving away only 32 runs. India have got the second new ball which can create some problems tomorrow morning with Ishant Sharma expected to make most of the uneven bounce.
Tea on Day 1: England went to Tea losing two more wickets while crawling to 133 for 4 in 65 overs. Indias’s over rate was once again too good with this session seeing 32 overs bowled but the most important part was its spinners strangling the scoring rate. This was despite Kevin Pietersen batting through the entire session to remain unbeaten on a well grafted 68* (from 178 balls with 9 fours).
It was a desperate breakthrough for India when Ravindra Jadeja cleaned up the off stump of Jonathan Trott (44 from 133 balls with 7 fours) with an arm ball as the right hander erred in his judgment and offered no shot. Trott’s stand with Pietersen for the third wicket was worth 86 runs in 39.1 overs.
The second wicket of the session came from leggie Piyush Chawla who deceived Ian Bell (1 from 28 balls) in the flight and lured him into a false cover drive to be caught at short extra covers. At Tea, Pietersen has got debutant Joe Root at the crease batting on 10*.
Lunch on Day 1: England find themselves under pressure in their first innings after losing its openers early to Ishant Sharma. At Lunch, the visitors are on the recovery path at 61 for 2 in 33 overs with Jonathan Trott on 28* (from 83 balls) and Kevin Pietersen on 28* (from 74 balls with 4 fours) at the crease.
It was a great start for India as Ishant Sharma got Nick Comton nicking behind a short and rising delivery to the keeper in the 5th over with just the three runs on the board for England. Compton was shaken up by the uneven bounce on the pitch with lots of ball staying very low and the odd one taking off.
Ishant was on his way to get rid of Jonathan Trott cheaply when the right hander in an off drive was hit low on the pad by a full length inswinger right infront of off. Umpire Dharmasena gave it not out and ended off compensating his bad decision by ruling out the in-form Alastair Cook lbw in Ishant’s next over. It was a good length delivery from over the sticks which pitched on middle and nipped back to hit the frontpad of Cook infront of off. The left hander who scored just the 1 run in 28 balls didn’t get the benefit of doubt and that left England at 16 for 2 in the 11th over.
Pietersen who joined Trott was troubled by the low bounce but at the same time showed his intentions of going after the spinners. India used all its resources as many as four spinners to bowl as many as 33 overs in the morning session.
Toss and Teams: Alastair Cook for the first time in the series has won the toss in the fourth and final Test at Nagpur and without any doubts opted to bat first on a pitch that has lots of cracks already on Day 1. The visitors who are 2-1 up in the series have made a couple of changes with Samit Patel and Steven Finn (out with a back injury) making way for debutant Joe Root and Tim Bresnan.
India have made just the two changes to its line up with a straight swap of Ravindra Jadeja and leggie Piyush Chawla coming in the places of Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan who were dropped from the squad. Disappointingly, India have retained Ishant Sharma and left out the promising Ashok Dinda and Parvinder Awana. Ravindra Jadeja is therefore the only debutant for India in this Test match.
Pitch Report: It is a whitish looking pitch at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur. The pitch is full of cracks which are expected to widen up under the sun. The bounce is expected to be up and down to cause serious problems for the batsmen as the game progresses.
India: Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, MS Dhoni (C&WK), R Ashwin, Piyush Chawla, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha
England: Alastair Cook (C), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Joseph Root, Matt Prior (WK), Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Monty Panesar