India took the initiative on day one of the first Test against England at Mohali, after the tourists were reduced from the promising position of 172 for 2 to 238 all out. At the close India had reached 24 for 1 in reply.
With the pitch looking a seamer's paradise before the start, the Indian captain Sourav Ganguly won the toss and gave his fast bowlers first use of it. All three of the faster bowlers, Tinu Yohannan, Iqbal Siddiqui and Sanjay Bangar, are making their Test debuts, as are England's Richard Dawson and James Foster, who received their England caps in the now traditional on-field ceremony.
India broke through in the very first over as Mark Butcher, after driving Yohannan through the covers for four, was caught at second slip by VVS Laxman off the same bowler. Nasser Hussain flexed his muscles with a delightfully cut boundary off a short, wide ball from Yohannan. After an uncharacteristically quiet start, Marcus Trescothick opened his shoulders at the end of the seventh over, driving a half volley from Yohannan through the covers for four.
Siddiqui was on the receiving end as well, as Hussain first cut and then drove boundaries. Bangar fared little better, going for two more boundaries as England posted 50 in the twelfth over. Anil Kumble came on for Yohannan, and Trescothick looked fortunate to survive an lbw appeal when he was hit on the toe and credited with four runs to third man. He celebrated with boundaries through extra cover and long on, as England reached 70 for one at the end of an expensive first over for the leg-spinner. Hussain maintained the flow with two more offside boundaries off Bangar. Trescothick swept Kumble to fine leg for a single, and then reached the boundary with a similar shot off the same bowler to bring up England's 100 and his eighth Test 50. Hussain hoisted the century partnership with a delightful dab to the third man boundary, and at lunch England were healthily placed at 107 for 1.
Hussain soon reached his 50 in fine style, pulling to the boundary just in front of square. It was his eighteenth 50 in Tests. An error of judgement then led to Trescothick's downfall, as he left a ball from Yohannan that held its line when Trescothick expected it to seam away. It sent his off stump cartwheeling. Trescothick had made a fluent 66 and England were 129 for 2. Graham Thorpe then got away with an uppish hook for a single. Siddiqui returned in place of Yohannan in the 43rd over, and Thorpe struck a half volley with perfect timing to the extra cover boundary, repeating the stroke in Siddiqui's next over as he over-pitched again. But to his chagrin Thorpe was dismissed in the same over, flashing at a ball outside the off stump and giving a straightforward catch to Laxman at second slip. Siddiqui had his first Test wicket; Thorpe had made 23 and England were 172 for 3.
Mark Ramprakash immediately made the most of a wide half volley from Harbhajan, driving it to the cover boundary. Hussain then advanced down the wicket to hit Harbhajan for four over mid-off, before being missed in the same over behind the stumps by Deep Dasgupta. An edge in Harbhajan's next over fell just short of Laxman at slip. The England captain's response to adversity was aggressive. Twice he hit Harbhajan over the top, first for a magnificent six over extra cover long off, and then a miscued swing over midwicket for three. Ramprakash took three more off Siddiqui as he pierced the covers again, and Harbhajan then made way for Anil Kumble. A single from Ramprakash brought up the 200, but Kumble then struck a vital blow, dismissing Hussain for 85, caught by Laxman at silly point off pad and bat as he pushed defensively forward. The tourists reached the interval on 207 for 4.
England's run rate dropped substantially after tea, and a bowling change by Ganguly paid immediate dividends as Ramprakash, playing Harbhajan defensively across the line, was beautifully caught at silly point by Shiv Sunder Das for 17. 224 for 5 became 227 for 6 when Flintoff perished for 18, aiming to hit Harbhajan over the top and finding Kumble at backward point. Harbhajan missed out on his third wicket in three overs when Dasgupta failed to gather a thin outside edge from Craig White.
Harbhajan was not to be denied for long, dismissing Foster for a duck as he tried to sweep a ball from around his off stump. Kumble then dismissed White for five as he dabbed a late cut straight to Rahul Dravid at first slip without addition to the total. Dawson, popped up a straightforward catch for Laxman at silly point off Harbhajan, and Matthew Hoggard lasted just one ball, caught off bat and pad by the substitute Connor Williams at short leg to give Harbhajan his fifth wicket. He finished with 5 for 51, and on a day when many expected the seamers to dominate, seven wickets had fallen to spin and England had subsided to a mediocre total.
England opened their attack with Hoggard and James Ormond, and Dasgupta immediately looked in good touch. taking four off Ormond as Hussain chased unavailingly to the midwicket boundary. Butcher was brought on as first change, and provided the breakthrough England desperately needed in his second over when Das left a delivery, which hit his off stump. Anil Kumble entered the arena as nightwatchman, and by the close India had reached 24 for 1.