India claim opening day honours
Four hours of play were lost on the opening day, but India made up for lost time with a superb display in the field, making use of the favourable conditions to reduce England to 169 for 7 at Trent Bridge. Zaheer Khan led the way, defeating the batsmen with appreciable swing to finish with three wickets, while the rest of the attack offered fine support. Alastair Cook tried to counter the Indian dominance with a gutsy 43, but none of the batsmen came to terms with the combination of swing and control that Zaheer and Co displayed.
The rains finally relented and gave way to clear skies through most of the day, but the soggy outfield needed plenty of work before it was in playable shape. On a pitch which had a fair smattering of grass, it was always expected that the captain winning the toss would insert the opposition. Rahul Dravid did that, and India had the upper hand except for a 45-minute period when Cook and Paul Collingwood held the whip. The rest of the time, though, the bowlers dominated - the fast bowlers all got appreciable swing throughout the day, Sourav Ganguly bowled an impeccable spell immediately after tea which put the brakes on an England team looking to recover from early setbacks, while Anil Kumble struck a crucial blow too when he came on to bowl late in the evening.
As at Lord's, Zaheer's first over of the day saw him spray it all over the place. From there, though, the story changed completely. Whereas England's top three piled on the runs in the first Test, here Zaheer and RP Singh struck three early blows to pin England on the back foot. Andrew Strauss edged an expansive drive, Michael Vaughan fell to the round-the-wicket line for the third time in three innings - he has now fallen thrice in the 28 balls that India's left-arm seamers have bowled from that line - and Kevin Pietersen threatened briefly before being pinned in front by an indipper from Singh.
England had slumped to 47 for 3, and India were sniffing more success: Zaheer got his line and his prodigious swing under control on the way to 150 Test scalps, Sreesanth recovered from a poor first spell and was unlucky not to have Cook lbw, while Singh always looked likely to strike with his disconcerting bounce and the indipper.
England, though, found temporary respite in a rapid 54-run stand between Collingwood, who was easily the most fluent batsman on view, and the stubborn Cook. Covering the swing like none of the others, Collingwood punched a couple of glorious drives through the off side, while Cook, who became the youngest England batsman to get to 1500 Test runs, gradually gained confidence after a hesitant start. Thirty-five runs came in seven overs just before tea, and the momentum, it seemed, had shifted.
After tea, though, the Indians regained their intensity and discipline, and England wilted again. In an exceptionally tight passage of play, only 18 runs were scored in the first 15 overs after the break, in conditions which should have been easier for batting. The protagonist of the show was, surprisingly, Ganguly, whose eight naggingly accurate overs only cost 11. He nailed Cook too, whose tendency to fall over and work the ball to leg finally cost him his wicket, though Hawk-Eye showed that the ball would have sailed over the top of the stumps. With Collingwood having fallen to a poor stroke, dragging a drive on to his stumps, England had slumped to 109 for 5, and the initiative was back with India.
Ian Bell and Matt Prior threatened another revival, but Kumble nipped the recovery, courtesy a sharp catch at slip by Dravid, while Zaheer made it even better for India by trapping the neat Bell plumb in front with another piece of exceptional swing bowling, pitching it on middle and straightening it perfectly. A dropped catch by Tendulkar reprieved Tremlett and England, but a close-of-play score of 169 for 7 is one that Dravid would easily have taken at 3pm this afternoon.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo