India v England, 1st Test, Ahmedabad, 1st day November 15, 2012

Sehwag century and Pujara give India control


India 323 for 4 (Pujara 98*, Yuvraj 24*, Swann 4-82) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Welcome to India. The greeting came from Virender Sehwag and, this being Sehwag, rather than scatter rose petals on the bed he scattered England fielders in all directions with a buccaneering century which brought a rousing start to the opening Test in Ahmedabad. This being India, where Test cricket no longer draws the crowds, there were only a few thousand in the stadium to watch it.

That England recovered some ground by the close of the first day was almost entirely due to Graeme Swann, who, as their only specialist spinner on a chronically slow surface, bore an onerous responsibility and took all four Indian wickets to fall. In the process he passed Jim Laker as the most successful England offspinner in history. Roughly half of them have been left-handers, an advantage Laker never enjoyed in an era when lefties were in shorter supply.

Only Swann, late in his innings, was able to stem Sehwag's progress as he struck a run-a-ball 117, his first Test century for two years. It was a strange first session, dominated by Sehwag, who was adventuresome but far from explosive. His innings was typically more reliant upon eye than footwork as he manipulated the ball with disdain, drove at an excess of wide deliveries and defended only as an afterthought.

He is a character cricketer in the manner of Chris Gayle or Kevin Pietersen, an unconventional batsman with a commanding presence and a style all of his own and, at 34, especially on low, ponderous pitches such as these, he is not quite done yet.

Swann's wickets served to strengthen the conviction that England had erred in omitting a second specialist spinner in Monty Panesar. This is a virgin surface, of lower clay content and with no time to bed down, which threatens to drive the pace bowlers to distraction and turn sharply as the Test progresses. Doubts about Stuart Broad's fitness will have made England especially reluctant to field only two fast bowlers and they will wave all manner of statistics to support their selection but the evidence of the game was against them.

Swann's success was in strict contrast to the mood elsewhere. The only impression England's pace bowlers made was on the footholds. Anderson was wearing his worried expression, his new-ball spell limited to four overs. Broad stubbornly dug balls into an unsympathetic surface, saw them bounce no higher than the top of the stumps and looked at them quizzically as if he could stare it into behaving differently. Tim Bresnan went at nearly six an over. It was a huge toss for India to win.

By lunch, at slip, Alastair Cook pondered whether his elevation to the Test captaincy really was a good idea after all. By the close, Swann had reminded him that in a four-Test series Sehwag's assault was merely the beginning, but a trial by spin still awaits England.

Gautam Gambhir was Swann's first victim after an opening stand of 134 in 30 overs, bowled trying to fashion one of his high-risk carves through point and beaten by a hint of turn and weary bounce. Sehwag had briefly fallen into contemplative mood in mid-afternoon, as if recovering energy for his next assault, when he was bowled, sweeping.

Swann's third wicket the most remarkable of all, that of Sachin Tendulkar who lofted to deep midwicket in an extraordinarily misconceived manner only a few minutes before tea. Finally, Virat Kohli, who had played circumspectly, was deceived in the flight and bowled through the gate.

A Gujarati hero emerged for the crowd to applaud. Cheteshwar Pujara, upright and accomplished, was two runs short of his second Test century by the close and looked a convincing replacement for Rahul Dravid in an understated innings, showing a collected manner and good timing. But he needed a let-off on 8 as his gentle leading edge against Bresnan was misjudged by James Anderson, who ran in too far at mid-on.

England spurned three other opportunities. Sehwag was dropped on 80, glancing Anderson, whereupon Matt Prior spilled a difficult chance and Prior also missed a stumping against Gambhir. The most embarrassing drop, though, belonged to Jonathan Trott, who fluffed a slip catch off Swann from Kohli and rolled the ball into the turf before shamelessly claiming the catch in a slightly perplexed manner. The umpires sought replays; for Trott they did not look good.

Gambhir and Sehwag had been an alliance in decline, and fleetingly there were hints of vulnerability, but these were not conditions to ask questions of defensive technique. Gambhir had proclaimed before the match that they were the best opening duo in the country and few would find much cause to question that as India sailed to 120 without loss by lunch. It was their first century opening partnership since India faced South Africa in Centurion in 2010.

Sehwag spoke of playing watchfully,and met by a deep point, he did glide regularly to third man, but his 50 still came in only 45 balls and by lunch he had 79 from 66 with 12 fours and a six. England's pace attack strayed wide too often and runs came at a tempo that Test cricket rarely sees: 50 by the 12th over; 100 by the 20th. Sehwag possessed a hunched, insouciant air that suggested the match was of little consequence and he was just having a bit of a bash.

England calculated that the ball might reverse for Bresnan, as it did as early as the ninth over in a warm-up match on the adjacent B ground, but Bresnan had a dispiriting day, never worse than when Sehwag took him for 4-4-6 in his sixth over, the second boundary, a drag through mid-on against a ball that crept past the fielder verging on the insulting; the six over wide long-on that followed, a full swing at a length ball.

India have never lost a Test at home after beginning with a century stand. That statistic tells England that their chances are already slim. It was all a long way from England's domination of India in English conditions last summer.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Al on November 17, 2012, 16:06 GMT

    What Sachin is playing as a bowler now??? Why give him an over when Yuvraj and Sehwag are there?? Our selectors need to grow a backbone and drop Sachin NOW.

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2012, 14:04 GMT

    If the likes of McGrath, Kasprowicz, Gillespie and the West Indians of old could do it, why can't the English bowlers? I'd say because they simply aren't good enough. I don't see why we shouldn't produce rank turners or wickets with low bounce. After all, would the English produce dust bowls for our benefit? The challenge of an away tour is beating a team in conditions that suit them. As for the matches being boring and non-competitive by virtue of the low bounce, I'd just like to point out a lot of people switched their Televisions off when tired of watching the Indian batsmen struggle against the short deliveries on India's tour of England. I remember Ashwin being extremely frustrated in England when one of the pitches gave him absolutely nothing. If the English misread the pitch and chose to bench Panesar, you can't blame the curator.

  • Al on November 16, 2012, 12:40 GMT

    This is the best time to drop 10dulkar. We have no shortage of talented youngsters in India. Why should we play this non-performer? Remember - you play to WIN.

  • Ankur on November 16, 2012, 12:32 GMT

    I heard some of the english fans...they were saying its a Flat pitch ...English player can not bat even on Flat pitches lol

  • joseph on November 16, 2012, 6:31 GMT

    Eng has some good players of spin - Pieterson, Bell, Patel and has a long batting lineup. If Ind wons, it could be of Eng careless play/pitch damaged/Not yet learnt the Skill of Ashein, Ojha.

  • Harmon on November 16, 2012, 6:05 GMT

    @ GloveActually: Loved your handle here...... :-)

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2012, 5:57 GMT

    @US_Indian that is probably the best much ado about nothing comment, its easy to point out mistakes, the writer merely made the reference to Gujarat to highlight that Pujara was playing in front of his home crowd. Please don't try to complicate things here. As for those Eng fans who keep on blaming pitches in India please understand other teams who come stopped using these shoddy tactics, and they have done well here. Look at the recent NZ series they did give us a fight inspite of being young and inexperienced. England has a sad record in the sub continent and blaming the pitches wont change it . I hope they do well this series because this is probably the best English team in decades. The same applies to India when we travel to Engliand.

  • Venkat on November 16, 2012, 5:46 GMT

    Drop Tendulkar for the next test.Time to bring in youngsters who are scoring double and triple centuries in domestic cricket.There is plenty of talent there and why is Tendulkar blocking them ? He should learn from Ganguly, Dravid and VVS, how to exit in a decent way.

  • siddarth on November 16, 2012, 5:46 GMT

    Just listening to the english commentary on Star sports, Its just ridiculous! Very very poor from Ravi, Sunny ,Ganguly..Its just England bashing all the way, its like they are commentating for India!! I wish i could hear some unbiased (Read only cricket) stuff like here on Cricinfo.. this whole series seems as if India is only playing for revenge.

  • vinit on November 16, 2012, 5:43 GMT

    @vjgs u said that england is poor at home and so is india and srilanka can beat india at home to tell u srilanka has never even won a single test match in india let alone a series and srilanka will never beat england at home either srilanka has never eeven won a test in australia and have lost to australia at home twice and to india once and even to england once and england managed a draw in srilanka this time aroundonly rank srilanka deserves is a number 8 zimbabwe and bangladesh on 9 and 10 so why dont u comment n newzealand vs sruilanka minnows section and let the big league english and indian fans comment here and to remind you australia, southafrica,pakistan and england about 30 years ago have beaten india in india and srilanka is yet to win a test match in india so these are not flat picthes these are pitches whedre your players dont have the skill to play on

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