August 8, 2014
Choice of game
With the series so evenly poised at 1-1, and fueled further by the Anderson-Jadeja hearing, this was a vital day that was expected to play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the overall series.
Team I was supporting
Any Pakistan fan would normally cheer for any team that plays against India, but my reasons behind cheering England were anything but patriotic. Being an Alastair Cook fan, I have personally been very disappointed with the criticism he received following the defeat at Lord's. A series win against India would not only stabilize his position as captain, but would also give England something to smile about after a miserable 12 months.
Return of the British summer
The early morning drizzle nearly played spoilsport, in a rare English summer where Test cricket has hardly been interrupted by weather. But the ground staff did a fantastic job to allow the cricket to start only 30 mins late.
To ruthlessly dismiss a world-class batting order is no easy feat. I agree that the conditions were helpful, but both Stuart Broad and Anderson were simply exceptional. The surface wasn't as friendly as the one at Lord's, yet they learnt from their mistakes and pitched the ball up. The Indian batsmen had no answers and were shell-shocked to be four wickets down in no time. Both bowlers were relentless and were consistently hitting the high 80s. The slip catching was brilliant to back up the high-class swing bowling.
Face-off I relished
Unsurprisingly, Jimmy Anderson v Ravindra Jadeja. With the bad blood built up between the two sides from the recent proceedings involving both players, the Lancashire crowd was strongly backing their local Burnley boy. And he didn't disappoint them either. The Old Trafford crowd greeted Jadeja with a series of boos, before he was set-up with a couple of outswingers by Jimmy, only to be eventually trapped lbw by an inswinger for a duck.
The interplay I enjoyed the most
MS Dhoni's gutsy 71 exemplified that batting is not all about technique. Coming in at 8 for 4 with the England bowlers bowling beautifully and taking advantage of the overcast conditions, Dhoni really led from the front and stood up to the challenge. His ability to remain calm and read the situation is incredible. Combining his unorthodox technique (especially his dancing down the track) with a number of counter-attacking strokes, Dhoni's innings saved India from utter humiliation. He also took a number of blows to his body and survived a barrage of short balls, but nonetheless showed the Indian top order that a bit of application and discipline was needed to survive the early morning England burst.
Shot of the day
We all know Ian Bell is a class act, but his performances over the past nine months have not been of the highest standard. The six down the ground in R Ashwin's first over not only made a bold statement about England's attacking intent against India's frontline spinner, but also showed that Bell is back to his best.
This was my Old Trafford debut. The 'new look' ground has gone through substantial changes in recent years to provide fantastic facilities for the spectators. It was therefore disappointing to only see the ground 75% full - perhaps the holiday season and high-ticket prices are a reason to explain this.
The 'Party Stand' did everything it could to light up the sprits on what was a relatively quiet day in terms of atmosphere. Notable activities included teasing the local stewards with passing around a large softball, building towers of empty beer glasses and the occasional Mexican wave.
It was also great to see a number of spectators supporting fancy dress costumes - the most entertaining ones being the superheroes - Superman, Robin and the Incredible Hulk, while others were more exotic, sporting sombreros and a Hawaiian look.
There was a Q and A session with Mike Gatting during the lunch interval. It was also great to spot Ex-Lancashire Farokh Engineer at the ground.
One thing I would change about the day
Virat Kohli is no doubt a fantastic player to watch and has proved his credentials on the world stage. However, this has to be the first time I have seen Kohli struggle and the 'ice man' is showing signs of fragility in the corridor of uncertainty. I hope he can recapture some of his lost form to show the English crowds what a fine talent he is. His dismissal on the first day was worryingly very predictable.
The unlucky guy
You have to feel sorry for Pankaj Singh. The poor guy toiled away again without getting that first Test wicket. And to compound matters further, Varun Aaron picked up two wickets.
8/10. A great day for England and all in all, some high quality Test cricket. Broad and Anderson were at their best and made use of the helpful conditions to destroy India's top order and set up the game for England. The atmosphere was good, but not as great as some other games I have attended in the recent past. However, the cricket made up for a lack of a full-house crowd. A special thanks to all Old Trafford officials, groundstaff and volunteers for being excellent hosts.
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