Cricketnext takes a look at India's noticeable players in the first Test against England.
There is no better feeling than avenging yourself on your perpetrators. This rang true for India coming into the first Test against England at Ahmedabad. India were thrashed 4-0 when they toured England last year, so this series was looked at as an opportunity for India to settle scores and restore a pride that had been ruthlessly mutilated. Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli made no bones terming these four Test matches as a 'Revenge Series'.
India were expected to win in Ahmedabad, and did so in the end though perhaps not as easily as they would have liked to. Here, Cricketnext takes a look at India's noticeable players in the first Test.
Openers click, Sehwag ends century drought
While Virender Sehwag blazed his way to the sparkling hundred – his first in two years – Gautam Gambhir was streaky during his innings of 45. Gambhir is known to be supremely adept against spinners, and Graeme Swann's penchant for snagging left-handers is well-documented. It was a cracking tussle between both of them, and Swann came out on top by bowling Gambhir after Matt Prior had missed a stumping chance.
Nevertheless, the Indian opening pair forged a 134-run stand, their first century partnership in 30 innings. Sehwag continued to flay the England bowlers with imperious impudence and notched up his 23rd century off 90 balls. Barring an ugly hoick against Stuart Broad, Sehwag looked compact and chose the right deliveries to hit boundaries. Sehwag was also cleaned up by Swann after making 117, but sent a withering warning to England as what to expect from him in the remaining three matches of the series.
Pujara cements his place at No. 3
Cheteshwar Pujara has been hailed as successor to Rahul Dravid ever since he made 72 against Australia on Test debut in 2010. After recovering from the knee injury that ruled him out of much of 2011, Pujara made a remarkable comeback to international cricket by compiling a stroke-filled 157 against New Zealand at Hyderabad a couple of months back.
At Ahmedabad, Pujara put on an astounding performance that has heralded his arrival as a serious talent – if anyone had doubts. He outscored Sehwag in a 90-run stand for the second wicket in the first innings and hastened India’s win on day five with an unbeaten 41 off 51 balls while sent to open the innings.
During his unbeaten double-century, Pujara impressed one and all with his robust technique and unflappable temperament. He was the only Indian batsman who looked completely at ease against Swann, and meted out a pulsating pasting to the English offspinner. He was quick to pick Swann's length and stepped out frequently to smother the turn, and drove and flicked him with consummate ease. Not once did Swann, who captured six wickets in India's first innings, manage to beat or trouble Pujara, who remained unbeaten on 206 when India declared their first innings for 521 for 8.
Yuvraj makes a welcome return
Yuvraj Singh's doughty 74 in the first innings was another bright spot for India. The flamboyant left-hander, who made 208 in his first first-class match after recovering from rare germ-cell cancer, looked uneasy initially against Swann but grew in confidence as the innings progressed. He later bludgeoned Swann for a six and four in the same over. Yuvraj reached his half-century after blasting Samit Patel for a boundary before falling to a full toss, but exhibited resolve to occupy the crease and looked eager to score runs.
Ojha comes into his own, Yadav bursts to life
From the bowling perspective, Pragyan Ojha and Umesh Yadav shone with their spirited show. Ojha, who has often termed as the bowler to hold one end tightly, stepped up and staked his claim as a strike bowler with nine wickets in the match. He flummoxed England's batsmen with his deceptive drift and extracted sizeable turn from the wicket, and added venom and zip to his bowling to reap rich dividends. Though Yadav only snapped up four wickets in the match, he impressed everyone by bowling searing yorkers, which dipped in late, at stinging pace with the old ball. His afternoon spell on day four, in which he trapped Ian Bell and Patel lbw in a bustling display of reverse-swing, was special.
In the first innings, Dhoni introduced Yadav into the attack in the 48th over and he ratified his captain's faith by winkling out Patel. He got the new ball in the second innings and bowled with a lot of vigour, generating pace and bounce on a wicket which was on the slower side, and most balls kept low. Yadav is a huge asset to the Indian team and could be the fast bowler they have been searching for.
Whither Dhoni’s aggression?
Dhoni's captaincy was mediocre and field settings defied logic and imagination at times. He set defensive fields even when England's top order had collapsed in the second innings, and let Cook and Prior muster easy runs. His starting the final day, with England ahead by ten runs with five wickets in hand, without a slip for Zaheer Khan was baffling. His removing of a silly point and moving him to short midwicket in Ojha’s first over of the day was equally defensive. This was not the thinking of a winning captain, and Dhoni’s luck seems to be taking a turn for the worse.
Cook sends a stern reminder
India's biggest worry going into the second Test would be England's captain Alastair Cook and their wicketkeeper Prior who denied India a chance to wrap up the Test on day four. Cook demonstrated tremendous patience and pluck to carve one of the finest innings by a visiting batsman in India. His 176 is the highest score by an English batsman in Test matches while following-on, and Cook also became the first batsman to score three consecutive Test centuries in his first three matches as captain.
He and Prior played with soft hands and countered the Indian spinners with superb dexterity. The other England batsman, notably Bell, looked completely out-of-sorts and will need to buckle up big time if England wish to revive their fortunes. Kevin Pietersen is their best batsman but failed in both innings. England will hope that he finds a way to sort out his problems against left-arm spinners.