England v India, 2nd npower Test, Trent Bridge, 1st day

Nottingham and the joy of swing

Swing and movement worked their magic at a venue known to produce outright results, but India need to scrap in tough conditions to keep the series truly alive

Sambit Bal at Trent Bridge

July 29, 2011

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James Anderson struck off his first ball in the Indian innings, England v India, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 1st day, July 29, 2011
Trent Bridge has been well and truly James Anderson's turf © Getty Images
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As they have generally done in the course of becoming the top-ranked Test team in the world, India found the spark in their second coming and the series has now come to life. Lord's was a tighter contest than the margin of defeat suggested, and the second Test, just a day old, already carries the promise of a fulfilling contest between bat and ball.

Happily, Trent Bridge doesn't do draws. There has been only one here in the last ten years, and it took a huge effort from Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly on the final day, in 2002, to secure it. And even though it is something of an English bastion, India and Sri Lanka have won Tests here. And throughout the see-sawing day, it was easy to see results are the most natural outcome at this ground. Batting was a trial every over.

There can be the argument that the conditions were too partial towards bowling to produce a fair contest. Certainly the ball wrecked mayhem in the middle. It swung and wobbled in the air, nipped and jagged off the pitch, and some ascended without warning from a length. Given the number of balls that defeated the bat, the wicket count wasn't perhaps an accurate reflection of the nature of the day, but batsmen would cherish every run scored on the pitch, and those who watched it would know it too.

Stuart Broad came fresh from an unbeaten 73 at Lord's, but his momentum-changing 64 today was worth a hundred. It came not through the flails and swishes of a No.9, but through accomplished batsmanship that contained many bold strokes alongside some reasonable defending. And in the last hour of the day, Dravid, forced to open in the second consecutive innings, and VVS Laxman, who faced the second ball of the innings, had to draw on not only their exceptional skills but years of experience to make it India's day. Just about.

During the Lord's Test, there was a discussion on the air about the dynamics of swing bowling. Nasser Hussain quoted arguments from a NASA scientist to suggest that swing has nothing to with the atmosphere - cloud cover and the resultant heaviness in the air - and had everything to with the condition of the ball and the seam position. His fellow commentators didn't appear convinced but didn't have a scientific counter.

Whatever might be the fundamentals of swing, there is something about Trent Bridge that makes the ball shake a hip. No one can explain it cogently, but they say it has something to do with the new stands. When India were here last, a new stand had just been erected and Zaheer Khan led them to a comprehensive win. Another stand has come up on the opposite side, and India didn't even miss Zaheer, still recovering from a pulled-hamstring, after their captain had won a second toss in a row.

It's just as well that they had the right kind of bowler to lift them. Sreesanth, a bowler born to bowl in Test cricket but whose biggest challenge has been mastering his own mind and winning the confidence of his captain, bowled as if nothing had happened between his previous Test, in Cape Town in January, and today. The seam came proudly out of his hand, the ball was pitched up, and it shaped beautifully away. He was the most expensive bowler of the day, but he also took the most prized wickets. The ball that removed Matt Prior, Engalnd's batting hero from the Lord's Test, was the most sensational of the series of outstanding outwingers he produced all day.

Maybe the scientific argument is right. Maybe it has something to do with the balls. They have been swinging since last year. Pakistan finally beat Australia in a Test - in a 'home' series in England - last year and it was down to the utter ineptitude of their batsmen that they didn't win one more against England. The England bowlers loved those balls so much that they are still using the last year's batch. James Anderson was outstanding all season and never more devastating than at Trent Bridge, where he bowled Pakistan out for 80.

India might have occasion to rue those runs they conceded to the last two wickets. Trent Bridge is well and truly Anderson's turf. With 29 wickets here at just over 15.00, he is the highest wicket-taker at this ground in the last decade, comfortably ahead of Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff. While India can look back on the day as mission accomplished after restricting England to 221, a scrap lies ahead. Nearly a decade ago, Dravid battled the swinging ball for a nearly a day to set up a seminal victory at Headingley. His vigil at the end of the day, vital as it was, is only the beginning of the job. India will need something quite special to keep this series truly alive.

But irrespective of whichever way the Test goes, it is likely that the connoisseurs of the game will go rewarded. Swing is in the air, and along with legspin, it ranks as one of most attractive bowling sights. Besides, to watch batsmen earn their keep is a refreshing change.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by A_Vacant_Slip on (July 30, 2011, 18:02 GMT)

@5wombats . eh? You've quoted me! But I don't mind being right! It WAS a procession! England to win here. It will be closer than Lords though.

Posted by Alexk400 on (July 30, 2011, 17:15 GMT)

Damn sachin failed again? he fails when india need him. He scored all those centuries on the coattails of dravid's incredible work of making opposition tired and hopeless and sachin come and reap all rewards. Sachin is useless in tough situation. Not sure why people even call him Great. it is demeaning to "Great" word. :)

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on (July 30, 2011, 17:00 GMT)

@arun_cheers and one-down, well said mates. But, I thought what you said should be obvious to people who are not blinkered with century counts. Leave it mates. Paper 'god's' fans are as consumed as the paper 'god' himself. So, no point in making them understand that paper 'god' doesn't want to risk his wicket in testing conditions unlike the rarest genius Dravid who thrives on challenges and comes out with flying colors. Jai Ho Dravid.

Posted by 5wombats on (July 30, 2011, 16:40 GMT)

@ALL - note my comment from this morning....; "but they'll have to come out to play at some stage. It will be a procession". See - I was right.

Posted by   on (July 30, 2011, 14:54 GMT)

I second Arun. No matter how many times he denies it, Tendulkar plays for records. Sehwag has a 50 plus average in spite of his unselfish batting (He is practically never unbeaten.) He is the true phenomenon in Indian Cricket, post the millennium.

Posted by zxaar on (July 30, 2011, 14:42 GMT)

@one-down Tendulkar was averaging 79 in last 25 tests he played. So yaa he made up for all the chances he got. In England Tendulkar was averaging 62 before this series so NO dravid is not the only one to score in England. Sorry mate.

Posted by zxaar on (July 30, 2011, 14:40 GMT)

@arun_cheers Tendulkar opens in ODI and feel free to check out how much team man he is there. ODI is also another important form of cricket. Dravid can open in ODI too if he wants and if he really is that much team man.

Posted by arun_cheers on (July 30, 2011, 12:07 GMT)

@zxaar - Sachin is not actually a team man as his supporters think. There are no fielding restrictions in Test matches, so its tougher to open in seaming and swinging conditions against good bowling unit like england or SA. ;) ... Sachin only worries about creating personal landmarks, so does not want to risk his wicket in tough conditions by opening the innings ! First Sehwag comes and kills the opposition bowling with his superior batting skills, then Dravid comes and tames the opposition bowling and drains them of all their energy by defending 150 more balls. After all this Mr. Tendulkar comes out to face a weekened bowling who are finally left with any energy or enthusiasm to attack as heavily as they did to the first 3 batsman. This helps Tendulkar to score all those centuries and reaching the landmarks ! he he

Posted by arun_cheers on (July 30, 2011, 12:02 GMT)

@zxqqr - Sachin is not actually a team man as his supporters think. There are no fielding restrictions in Test matches, so its tougher to open in seaming and swinging conditions against good bowling unit like england or SA. ;) ... Sachin only worries about creating personal landmarks, so does not want to risk his wicket in tough conditions by opening the innings ! ;)

Posted by one-down on (July 30, 2011, 11:22 GMT)

@zxaar... tendulkar HAD two chances at Lord's and WHAT did he do??? not even close to a fifty :( enough said... case closed!!! hahaha

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Sambit Bal Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.
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