England, led by their captain Joe Root dominated the opening day of the first Test against India in Chennai losing just three wickets in 89.3 overs putting up 263 on the board. While the day belonged to Root who registered his 20th Test century and third on the trot, it was also a day of disappointment for two inexperienced Indian spinners, both playing in only the second Test of their respective careers. A lot was expected of Shahbaz Nadeem and Washington Sundar but not only did they not pick a wicket but were also very expensive releasing the pressure put on the English batsmen by the trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and R Ashwin.
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Nadeem, who had earlier represented India in just the solitary Test against South Africa at Ranchi in 2019, was guilty of bowling a number of short deliveries which were punished by the English batsmen, in particular Root. He started his spell (the last ball of his first over) with a short-pitched delivery to Dom Sibley who cut it away past point to the boundary.
Washington Sundar, one of India’s heroes at the Gabba - his only Test for India thus far - also started his spell with an over-pitched delivery outside off to Root who dispatched it through the covers to the boundary.
However, Nadeem pegged things back and conceded just 13 runs in his first 7 overs. It was after the pair of Root and Sibley were set that they took the attack to the Indian spinners and in particular attacked Nadeem and Sundar. The boundaries started to flow off their bowling post the 43rd over of the England innings. Both the bowlers were guilty of bowling on both sides of the wicket and were unable to bowl a tight line and length. They were inconsistent and not able to build any pressure on Root-Sibley giving away a poor delivery almost every over - either overpitching or bowling short or on middle and leg allowing the English batsmen to play the sweep. This forced Virat Kohli to make a double bowling change in the 50th over. All the hardwork put in by Bumrah, Ishant and Ashwin was wasted and the pressure released due to some indisciplined bowling by Sundar and Nadeem.
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They let Root and Sibley away when the plan should have been to choke them for runs from one end and let the more experienced bowlers attack them from the other.
It got worse for Nadeem post Tea as he gave away a boundary in three of his first four overs in the session. The slow left arm orthodox bowler was drafted into the side in place of Ravindra Jadeja as a number of right-handed batsmen from England had shown weakness against left-arm spin in the past, more recently against Lasith Embuldeniya in Galle. But he could not live up to expectations.
Nadeem and Sundar bowled in tandem for 12 overs from the 67th to the 78th over and leaked 57 runs as India waited for the new ball. They gave away as many as 9 boundaries in this period as Root and Sibley took the match away from India. Nadeem was not only guilty of bowling a number of short-pitched deliveries which were put away by the England batsmen but also overstepped on as many as four occasions. By the time India took the red cherry the pressure was off England as they had scored heavily in the preceding hour and could just afford to defend against the likes of Bumrah and Ishant.
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Nadeem returned with figures of 0-69 off his 20 overs and bowled just 3 maidens throughout the day. Sundar, known for his restrictive abilities as was on display in the IPL in UAE in 2020, was taken for 55 in his 12 overs at a run rate of 4.58. He did not bowl any maidens. While the other three Indian bowlers had a combined economy rate of 2.35 on Day 1, Sundar and Nadeem went at almost 3.9 runs per over. The outcome - England not only did not lose many wickets but were also allowed to score freely and get away to a commanding position on the opening day of the series opener.
India may have missed a trick in picking Nadeem over the more experienced Kuldeep Yadav. Kuldeep has picked 24 wickets in 6 Tests for India at an average of 24.12 with two five-wicket hauls already to his credit. But being a chinaman bowler, he was left out and instead the conventional orthodox spin of Nadeem was preferred with the Indian think tank obviously wanting the ball to turn away from the English right-handers. But did they miss a trick and take a big risk by playing the inexperienced Nadeem over Kuldeep once Axar Patel was ruled out of the match due to knee pain?
Nadeem and Sundar have the talent and ability to redeem themselves on Day 2. Do they have the temperament to put the disappointment of Day 1 on the back burner and put in a creditable performance for their country in the rest of the match? Time will tell.
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