Debutant Ravindra Jadeja impresses on an insipid opening day’s play
Run-making was a laborious exercise; but watching that exercise was no less irksome for those who turned up at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) stadium in Jamtha here on Thursday.
England won the toss, started shakily, recovered, lost the plot again and finished at 199 for five in 97 overs on the opening day of the final Test. Cricket was not at all an enjoyable theme on an insipid creation by the curator here as England achieved the lowest first day score of the series with 486 dot balls.
When a Test is heralded by a spinner it only underlines the priorities. A silly-point and a silly mid-off to the seventh ball of the match, the batsmen craving for runs, yawns in the galleries. Oh, this was a painful introduction to Test cricket for new-born fans of the Indian team.
Kevin Pietersen produced a classy show, absolutely dedicated to the team’s interest, eschewing his natural flair, studying the opponent and instinctively taking the easy recourse to smother the spin. He was troubled by medium-fast Ishant Sharma, who bagged the first two wickets, one to a dubious decision, but Pietersen demonstrated awesome skills to excel on this poor pitch for Test cricket.
It was a strange start to the Test. There were actually spectators at the Jamtha. And the Indians in attacking positions. But it was a weird initial phase too with M.S. Dhoni collecting the ball near his ankles, some deliveries reaching him one bounce or two.
The bounce was disappointingly low for an international match and the batsmen accepted the challenge. Their stance had a pronounced stoop and the approach caution. And then one ball hit the seam and rose past the bat only to die at the wicketkeeper’s feet. This was poor advertisement for Test cricket.
India, expectedly, opted for a spin-dominated attack. Just one fast bowler suited the script that Dhoni had in mind. He wanted the batsmen to work for their runs and the slow and low pitch presented the Englishmen with a tough task. They had to adapt and innovate. This was going to be difficult, indeed.
Nick Compton’s dismissal invited unrestrained reaction from the fielders. He was surprised by the extra height the ball gained as it took a faint edge. But Dhoni took the catch at his feet. Ishant had a wicket to inspire him. He is a different bowler when he tastes early success.
It was evident soon when Alastair Cook, the scourge of the Indian attack in the past three Tests, lunged and missed the ball. The ball had nipped in a bit and may have kissed the off-stump.
Ishant gets Cook
The riotous celebrations showed the esteem in which Cook is held by the Indian team. Cook was falling to Ishant for the seventh time in his career.
Pietersen arrived at the crease in his inimitable style, his brisk gait symbolising his confidence. Not that he prospered flawlessly but there was a distinct degree of resistance that marked his batting today. He was willing to use his reach, step out to meet the threat but importantly he was quick to read the Indian spinners. They were hardly extracting any turn though.
The stylish Pietersen played some exquisite cricket, the drives so fluent and the flicks so precise that the youngsters in the galleries would have picked up lessons in clinical strokeplay.
Jonathan Trott and Pietersen gave the England innings the thrust and the recovery was marshalled through some premeditated aggression. Their third-wicket stand of 86 runs ended to an innocuous ball from debutant Ravindra Jadeja, who was presented his Test cap by Sachin Tendulkar.
It was motivating enough for the Saurashtra cricketer, who bowled a straight ball and Trott offered no shot. The ball never turned and hit the off-stump. It was a tame end to a fine innings and Jadeja had a debut Test wicket.
Ian Bell departed cheaply, this time to Piyush Chawla, who failed to impress. In fact none of the spinners made an impact as the focus was on waiting for the batsmen to make mistakes than induce one from them. And then, a casual ball evoked a casual response from Pietersen, who lazily on-drove the ball to mid-on. Jadeja had a wicket to cherish since Pietersen had dug in to grind the Indians hard and long.
There were no further alarms as Joe Root and Matt Prior dropped anchor.
England 1st innings: A. Cook lbw b Sharma 1 (28b), N. Compton c Dhoni b Sharma 3 912b), J. Trott b Jadeja 44 (133b, 7x4), K. Pietersen c Ojha b Jadeja 73 (188b, 10x4), I. Bell c Kohli b Chawla 1 (28b), J. Root (batting) 31 (110b, 1x4), M. Prior (batting) 34 (83b, 3x4),
Extras: (b-5, lb-7) 12,
Total: (for five wkts in 97 overs) 199.
Fall of wickets: 1-3 (Compton), 2-16 (Cook), 3-102 (Trott), 4-119 (Bell), 5-139 (Pietersen).
India bowling: I. Sharma 19-7-32-2, P. Ojha 27-9-50-0, R. Jadeja 25-13-34-2, P. Chawla 13-1-39-1, R. Ashwin 13-2-32-0.