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July 27, 2007
For the first four hours of another frustrating rain-hindered day, it looked as though no play would be possible on a Trent Bridge outfield that, on Wednesday afternoon, bore an uncanny resemblance to a paddy-field. England, in hindsight, might not have been too distressed by that outcome, after a performance with the bat that was as directionless as the Indian seamers were accurate. Hard though they toiled, England found the swing and incisiveness of Zaheer Khan as troublesome as India's own batsmen found James Anderson and Co in the first Test. The retreat from the high ground they had occupied on the final morning at Lord's continued with alarming speed.
With a bit more of a hustle between their overs at Lord's, and a fraction more luck with the umpiring, England could have been 1-0 up in this three-match series. Instead they drew a blank in that Test and, after watching the most frustrating of mopping-up operations, found that the luck remained dead-set against them at the toss for this game too. It's not too often that both captains admit to wanting to bowl first in a Test, but India - having learned their lessons from a wayward first 90 minutes at Lord's - were in the mood and form to capitalise on the conditions.
"It was one of those days when none of the batters got in, or if they did, kept getting out," said Alastair Cook who was the closest England came to a success story with the bat - at least, until he fell to Sourav Ganguly's under-rated dobblers for a hard-earned 43. "When it swung and nipped around like that it was tough, and the Indian bowlers didn't give us too many scoring options. But if we can sneak over 200 tomorrow then bowl like we did at Lord's then it could be quite competitive."
At 169 for 7, 200-plus would constitute a decent recovery, but such was the success of England's seam attack at Lord's, Cook remained confident that his side were not out of the contest just yet. "A good judge of a wicket and the conditions is when the second team bats," he said. "If we can bowl consistently as well as they did we can build pressure, and a couple of early wickets [makes our score] look big. Tomorrow we'll know what's happened today. We might not have done well or we might have done excellently. We don't yet know."
Either way, Cook was confident that the swinging conditions - which have been a feature of Trent Bridge Tests ever since the new Fox Road Stand was erected in 2002 - would not be letting up as the game progresses. For this he felt indebted to England's extraordinarily damp summer. "With the amount of water [we've had] and with the water table so high, the moisture will keep coming out in the sun, so it'll keep nipping around," he said. "It's been tough recently with all the rain, because normally in the English summer you get to August and the runs start flowing."
Visions of shimmering humidity and boomeranging swing will doubtless be circulating in the dreams of Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom - who, back in May, made his England comeback on his old stomping ground of Headingley and is once again on familiar turf at the county he's represented since 2003. But even so, they will have to work their way through an Indian batting line-up that not only is desperate to impress after their poor showing at Lord's, but has happy memories of Tests at Trent Bridge.
India have only played here on three occasions, but Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid have been involved twice in 1996 and 2002 - and between them they've amassed a century each, as well as five further scores of fifty-plus. "It's an ideal opportunity for us," said VVS Laxman, the one member of the big four who's not had it so good at this venue. "All of us got starts in the first innings, so it's very important to get a big score in the first innings."
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