The first day of the Motera Test put to the test the resources, resolve, and character of both India and England in equal measure. First, the home team’s seasoned opening pair in Virender Sehwag (117) and Gautam Gambhir (45) took control of the proceeding when the wicket was fresh and against a pack of skilful seamers, and thereafter a young tyro, Cheteshwar Pujara, grabbed another opportunity to prove his mettle. India should be happy to finish the day one at 323 for four.
After a sound start, as the day wore on and became warmer, Graeme Swann, always a clever off-spinner, came into play and made it an even contest between the bat and ball, picking up all the four wickets that fell — a clear indication that the brand new wicket at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium has the potential to decline further and offer much help to R. Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha.
India will now hope to add substantial runs through the fifth wicket pair in Pujara (98 batting) and Yuvraj Singh (24 batting), and the lower order.
Sehwag’s return to form could not have come at a better time. After his captain won the toss and elected to bat on a surface that nullified the exertions of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan, Sehwag demonstrated that he can comfortably switch between wielding a punishing blade and displaying its full face in defence.
Sehwag and Gambhir were not averse to dropping their wrists and taking sharp singles; they showed excellent judgment to leave balls and put up a stout defence when the seamers directed the ball straight and with a bit of swing.
The seam attack — especially Broad and Bresnan — strove hard on a featherbed, dropped the ball short in order to extract lift, but their endeavour proved to be in vain.
There was an occasion, though, when Pujara, on eight, offered a chance of a leading edge of Bresnan, but Anderson at mid-on had committed forward too far to turn back and take the catch.
After Swann cleaned up Gambhir, Sehwag and Pujara prevented more immediate damage, and took the score to 224.
Then Sehwag, was castled trying to sweep Swann, who had shown great character right through the 32 overs he sent down in three spells. At the end of the day, he cauld walk away with his head high, having got the openers and Kohli in the most emphatic manner — bowled.
The other wicket to fall was Swann’s too — Tendulkar, who got his first run off the inside half of his bat against a turning ball, made the mistake of going after the offie, and holed out to Samit Patel at deep mid-wicket.
Kohli, dropped on four by Jonathan Trott, was bowled though the gate off a ball that spun viciously.
But at close Pujara, walked away two runs short of what will be his second century in three Test matches.
With him was Yuvraj, more determined than ever before to make a big impact on his comeback Test.