Viru and Pujara plunder runs

Ahmedabad: Graeme Swann thrived on the Motera track just as a duck takes to water, but the England team as a whole, it appears, are nothing but a dead duck in the first Test, which began here on Thursday.

At the end of the day, the opening day that is, India's 323 for four, after winning the toss, may not look to be the definitive score that could predict the outcome of the match. But the first day could serve as a mirror for the remaining four and that is the reason why one can safely assume a 1-0 scoreline in India's favour when they go to Mumbai for the second game of the series, unless, of course, a Kevin Pietersen takes a liking for the pitch.

When two hounds fall short in hunting down the rabbit, it's common sense to add a third. But England captain Alastair Cook showed the audacity of employing just one hunter while chasing the lion. Going with a lone spinner in Swann to demolish the Indian batting line-up, that too on an Indian pitch, is a certain shortcut to defeat. More so when your pace attack lacks the Glenn McGraths and the Wasim Akrams.

As two Indian batters ' Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara ' plundered runs, Cook must have wondered why he didn't include Monty Panesar in his recipe.

While Sehwag's run-a-ball 117, decorated with 15 boundaries and a six, ridiculed the gravity of Test cricket, Pujara's unbeaten 98, off 181 balls and with 13 fours, must have pleased Rahul Dravid, who was present at the ground, as a commentator. The Sehwag way is no less entertaining than the Gangam style, but it was Pujara who, with a Dravid-like stance, caught the eye with his mature-yet-brisk run-making.

Apart from Pujara's well-deserved century, the second day of the match also promises something special from Yuvraj Singh, who was at the crease on 24.

Swann, however, took the battle somewhat to the Indian camp, picking three wickets in the post-lunch session. He added another later to be the only wicket-taker of the day. Deceiving Gautam Gambhir (45) with one that skidded through, beating Sehwag with a flighted one, tempting Sachin Tendulkar into mistiming a lofted shot or turning it so much that Virat Kohli (19) wore a bamboozled look after his stumps were knocked down… Swann was super.

Pity that he didn't have someone to play the supporting role. Samit Patel tried with his part-time left-arm spin, but that was never going to be enough. Also, Cook was very late in applying spin from both ends. When Swann and Patel started bowling in tandem, from the 73rd over, the English sun was almost lost in the horizon.

The Motera pitch, in the morning session, could have been used to prop up an advertisement for flat-screen televisions. No matter what the England bowlers tried, the wicket almost always had a poker-faced reaction. On such pitches, batting usually is a smooth drive on a seaside highway… It feels wonderful, it looks beautiful.

Even then, the iffy duo of Sehwag and Gambhir at times took reckless turns, with inside edges, tantalisingly close to the stumps, threatening to end the journey.

Sharing 134 runs for the first wicket, they frustrated the English bowling till lunch. This was their first century stand after almost two years ' the last one was in the second innings of Centurion Test, against South Africa, in December 2010.

In the pre-lunch session, England's bowling to the Indian batsmen was like desserts, sweet on the off-side and even sweeter on the leg-stump. James Anderson got thrashed for three consecutive boundaries, Tim Bresnan fared even worse, humiliated with two fours and a six in six balls of a Test match. Sehwag, hoisting his sail when the wind was fair, was the tormentor on both the occasions.

But not everything Indian clicked on the day.

Sachin completed 23 years in international cricket on Thursday. The landmark day, however, didn't present a landmark innings for the icon's millions of fans, and the 20,000-odd who were present at the ground, as the innings was cut short on 13.

So, with Swann on song, trust Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha to come up with twisters when the Englishmen pad up. The pitch already has brown spots and with more wear and tear, it should be a minefield.

Can England duck the danger?

Related reports: Page 16

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

T20 test for Che Pujara

T20 test for Che Pujara

The class act from Saurashtra may have to rethink his approach to the manner-less format. More »

Punjab pull off another big chase

Punjab pull off another big chase

GAME 7, SHARJAH—Maxwell, Miller, Pujara chase down Rajasthan's 192. More »

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Some members stressed on the need for proposing names with an "impeccable record and clean image". More »

Chaos threatens to engulf SL again

Chaos threatens to engulf SL again

As Lanka's head coach decides to jump ship, euphoria over winning an ICC tournament has dissipated into fuistration. More »

Kemar Roach escapes car crash

Kemar Roach escapes car crash

The West Indies fast bowler lost control of his BMW sedan due to slippery road conditions in his native Barbados on Saturday. More »

Cook relieved after period in limbo

Cook relieved after period in limbo

The England captain is looking forward to a fresh start after a dispiriting Ashes defeat last year. More »

Repose faith in Indian coaches

Repose faith in Indian coaches

All of them cost plenty of dollars which I feel is unnecessary for a two- month tournament, says former cricketer Yajurvindra Singh. More »

Jayasuriya unhappy at Farbrace conduct

Jayasuriya unhappy at Farbrace conduct

Sri Lanka's chief selector is upset at news of head coach Paul Farbrace's possible move to England. More »

Panel can help clean mess: Raghavan

Panel can help clean mess: Raghavan

The former CBI Director is one of three candidates proposed by the BCCI to head the enquiry into the IPL betting and spot-fixing scandal. More »

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

The Nawab of Najafgarh says a good run in IPL could help his chances of a comeback on India's tour to England in June. More »

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Furious fifties by Duminy and Dinesh Karthik end a long losing streak for the Daredevils. More »

Five things England must do to bounce back

Five things England must do to bounce back

England have appointed a new head coach in Peter Moores. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

‘Felt like helpless minority’

‘Felt like helpless minority’

Former BCCI treasurer Ajay Shirke says emotions got the better of Srinivasan and he tried to oversimplify things by calling Meiyappan an “enthusiast.” More »

Royal test for Kings

Royal test for Kings

Preview — Clash of philosophies between Australia-centric teams More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

The world record that nearly wasn't

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

His status as president of TNCA makes him eligible to attend the Working Committee meeting on Sunday. More »

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

Moores gets second stint as coach

Moores gets second stint as coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh's senior players will have three sessions with a psychological skill development coach later this month More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »