Gains and Pains from the first Test

Ojha, Pujara and Sehwag shine

MS Dhoni was Mr. Butterfingers in the opening Test against England. (File Photo)

India positives

Opening initiative: A century opening stand after almost two years between Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. Sehwag was at his scintillating best as he seized control on the first morning. Gambhir did not quite sparkle, but he hung around to support his aggressive partner. Gambhir was also deprived of an easy hit in the second innings when he had to leave for New Delhi owing to his grandmother’s demise.

An able replacement: Cheteshwar Pujara is fast filling out the huge shoes Rahul Dravid has left behind. The Saurashtra batsman did not look back after being handed a reprieve by James Anderson when he had score six. A majestic double hundred resulted and took India to a total in excess of 500. Pujara changed gears in the second innings, tearing into the small target with a quick unbeaten 41.

Yuvraj returns: The southpaw marked his Test comeback with a fighting half-century and looked good for a fairytale hundred when the old Yuvraj Singh surfaced and threw it all away. It was a pity, however, that Yuvraj was grossly underbowled by Dhoni in this match.

Ojha’s feat: The left-arm spinner finished a wicket shy of his maiden ten-wicket haul. But through the course of the match, Ojha teased and tested the Englishmen with flight and turn. His bowled of Kevin Pietersen in the first innings was a sight to watch, and it was Ojha again that got India the crucial breakthrough on the fifth day morning.

Pace aces: Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav made their presence felt on a track largely expected to help spinners. The left-arm fast bowler gave nothing away and showed impeccable control with both the old and the new ball. His variations were confounding, as Nick Compton found out in the second innings.
Yadav, often in the region of 145 kmph, hustled batsmen and on a few occasions had them taking acute evasive action. The reverse swing he attained was a constant source of trouble, although Samit Patel, who was at the receiving end of poor decisions twice in this Test, might disagree.

India negatives

Ashwin disappoints: The off-spinner had a mediocre outing by his standards. He picked up three key wickets in the first innings, but slipped away in the second. Ashwin had to wait until the last morning to add to his haul, but it is not until another poor showing that a certain Harbhajan Singh will come into the picture.

Clumsy Dhoni: India’s talismanic captain is not having the best of days. Dhoni missed two stumpings, dropped a catch, and fluffed another one that was later adjudicated to be off the pad. His batting too was strangely subdued. He consumed 37 balls for five runs when India were looking to hit out and declare early.

Sachin fails: The maestro’s poor run of form continued at Ahmedabad. He had struck two crisp boundaries when an inexplicable loft off Graeme Swann, minutes before tea on the first day, ended his stay on 13. The great man has scored just 137 runs in his last five Test matches and will look to get back in touch on his home ground in Mumbai, where the second test begins on November 23.