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.
It was a weird initial phase with Mahendra Singh Dhoni collecting the ball at his ankle, some deliveries reaching him in 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.
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 an arduous task. They had to adapt and innovate.
The dismissal of Nick Compton 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 the past three Tests, lunged and missed the ball. The ball had nipped in a bit and may have kissed the off-stump. Cook was falling to Ishant for the seventh time in his career.
The stylish Pietersen played some exquisite cricket, the drives so fluent and the flicks so precise the youngsters in the galleries would have picked up lessons in clinical strokeplay.
Jadeja spoils Trott-Pietersen partnership
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.
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 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.
A Cook lbw Sharma 1
N Compton c Dhoni b Sharma 3
J Trott b Jadeja 44
K Pietersen c Ojha b Jadeja 73
I Bell c Kohli b Jadeja 1
J Root batting 31
M Prior batting 34
(for 5 wkts in 97 overs)
1-3, 2-16, 3-102, 4-119, 5-139
Ishant 19-7-32-2, Ojha 27-9-50-0, Jadeja
25-13-34-2, Chawla 13-1-39-1, Ashwin 13-2-32-0.