Pujara Leads India To Victory

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England crashed to a dismal nine wicket defeat in the first test at Ahmedabad. The Indian spin bowlers gave the tourists a real master class in a game which saw the teams roles reversed from their previous meeting last summer in England.

England had hammered the then number one test side in the world 4-0 with a superb all round performance throughout the four test match series. But after the first test in India it seems like it is going to be a hard winter for England. Only Matt Prior and Alistair Cook offered any real resistance against the spin and the English pace bowlers rarely looked like taking wickets.

The defeat highlighted England’s poor form in the subcontinent and the team’s inability to play against world class spinners such as in the World T20 and the demoralising 3-0 Test defeat to Pakistan in Dubai earlier this year.

The choice to play three seam bowlers rather than an extra spinner also seemed to be a mistake from England as the India spin bowlers tore through the English batting line-up, whereas the English seamers could only muster combined figures of 1-255.

India took control of the test from day one posting 323-4 on a pitch which should have offered more for the bowlers with Virender Sehwag (117) and Cheteshwar Pujara (98*) piling the pressure on England in the field. It was only Graeme Swann who broke the Indian defence taking all four wickets which was a very good omen for the Indian side who have a number of world class spin bowlers within their ranks.

India then declared towards the end of day two posting 521-8 after a glorious double century from Pujara (206*) who was helped along by Yuvraj Singh (74). The home side immediately put England on the back foot by dismissing three English batsmen before the close of play. Nick Compton, James Anderson and Jonathan Trott all fell within 11 balls to leave England looking already beaten at the end of day two on 41-3 still 480 behind India.

Cook (41) and Prior (48) offered some resistance the next morning but it was not enough as India skittled their opponents for 191. Pragayn Ohja was the star of the bowling attack taking 5-45. Controversy surrounded the dismissals of both Broad and Patel as the decision not to use DRS by the ICB seemed to be playing right into India’s hands.

England trailing by 330 were forced to follow on but as defeat was staring them in the face debutant Compton and captain Cook rallied to leave England 111-0 at the end of day three which gave the tourists some hope of salvaging something from the game.

Unfortunately this did not last long as England lost wickets in quick succession early on day four to leave England 199-5 to again bring Prior and Cook together at the crease. At close of play on day 4 things were looking positive for England as Cook and Prior were still together at the crease and although the tourist still trailed, if they could have fought their way through the morning session without losing a wicket a draw could have been a possibility.

But again the luck was not with the English as the two in-form batsmen fell quickly in the morning to Pragayn Ojha (Cook 176 and Prior 91). The Indian spinner finished with match figures of 9-165 as the rest of the England batting line-up followed shortly afterwards.

England’s second innings score of 406 left India with a miserly 77 to chase. The home side chased it down in only 16 overs with Sehwag (25) being the only casualty of the innings. Again Pujara was the star of the Indian innings adding another 41 to his first innings total of 206.

England looked below standard in the first test and maybe Monty Panesar should be given a chance in Mumbai as he is overall a better spin bowler than Samit Patel. The only way England are going to win this series is to bowl the Indians out, not to out-bat them. England could only manage to take nine wickets in the first test and eight of them fell to spin bowlers. This underachievement in the first test will mount pressure on the selection committee on the decision whether to include Panesar or not.


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