SPORT

India faces a daunting task

England's Andrew Flintoff lifts India's Anil Kumble for a six on the second day of the first Test at Lord's. — Photo: N. Sridharan

England's Andrew Flintoff lifts India's Anil Kumble for a six on the second day of the first Test at Lord's. — Photo: N. Sridharan  

London July 26. Happy and memorable tales in Test match cricket do not occur due to several strokes of luck, although there are instances of it to prove the contrary as debutant Simon Jones showed with a string of unorthodox strokes on a bright afternoon on Friday.

Generally it is a result of such exemplary show of spirit and character that often sees top class batsmen coming up with monumental effort. Nasser Hussain fell in this category as he applied his mind to a specific task and prolonged his hard work for another one and half hours on the second day of the npower Test match at Lord's before a genuine away seamer from Ajit Agarkar saw his departure from the middle to a standing ovation from members occupying rows of seats beside the stairs leading to the players' dressing room.

That England, bowled out for 487 before teatime, gained the upper hand and firm grip of the opening Test was mainly because of the speed at which England's poster boy, Andrew Flintoff turned the tide in a little over one hour after India made its first breakthrough with left arm seamer Zaheer Khan winning a second leg before appeal from Zimbabwean umpire Russel, this time against Alec Stewart.

If Flintoff's remarkable array of shots played of the backfoot obtained the purist's approving nod, Simon Jones' first hour in Test cricket was fit to fill the pages of a fiction book.

Jones, who has already been given plenty of space in the broadsheets and tabloids, has been regarded as fast bowler in the making of a `Typhoon, Tyson, who rocked the mighty Australian boat in the 1950s.

But on Friday afternoon, he straightaway conveyed a message to the England selectors that he likes to bat and score runs for England as a lefthanded batsman apart from his ability to bend his back and bowl fast. Flintoff, Jones and Craig White were responsible for taking England thirteen runs short of the psychological edge mark of 500 runs. The England first innings came to an end fifteen minutes before tea when the third umpire Peter Willey confirmed that White was not in his ground when wicketkeeper Ajay Ratra whipped up the bails.

England's scoring pattern had reached a high average of 4.42 in 52 plus overs bowled in nearly two sessions of play on the second day. Though Hussain had made almost half of England's 257 on the opening day was well under three an over. But first Flintoff and thereafter Jones and White lifted it to a remarkable 3.42, which actually did not really speak well of the Indian bowling which was clueless when Jones began in an explosive fashion ondriving left arm seamer for a six.

England played to a plan in the first two-hour session. There was an early setback when Khan caused that indecision in the mind of the 13-year-old veteran in international cricket. Alec Stewart perished in the same way as Michaeal Vaughan had on the first morning and on a fresh pitch. The only difference was that Stewart's bat was far too behind as the ball that straightened up and hit right hander low on his front pad.

Flintoff was not the batsman the Indian bowlers expected to trouble them, the right hander beginning his 29th innings in Test cricket with an average lower than 20 and a pathetic 5.2 against India, having made only 26 in three Test matches. Hussain took half an hour to add a boundary shot to the 20 that stood against his name on Thursday. He also pulled a long hop from Anil Kumble to midwicket, but the England captain was intent on staying out.

India leaned heavily on Khan to take a clutch of wickets in order to take control. But a batsman talked of as possessing immense talent, Flintoff, began scoring points against all the Indian bowlers. Strangely the only onside and short boundary he played was the first of his ten fours.

Nehra who attacked Flintoff's pads, was flicked to the backward square leg fence. But thereafter, it was all power packed and well timed shots between cover point and midoff that flowed from the bat of Flintoff.

Kumble who replaced Nehra was hit for 11 runs in his first over of the morning. There were two great shots Flintoff struck off Khan; one was the cover drive hit on the up, with the right hander nicely balanced and the second one punched through traditional mid off, with there being no follow through, which suggested that Flintoff had used the pace of the Khan to dispatch it straight down the ground.

England had more time to proceed from 250 to 300, although Flintoff and Hussain struck ten fours in the first hour and added 55 runs in 12 overs. Kumble was removed after he conceded 25 from his first 24 balls.

Flintoff helped himself with another 11 runs when Nehra returned for his second spell. He reached his half century with a six over long on off Kumble and immediately punched Agarkar to the midwicket fence.

But after an entertaining partnership of 93 off 113 balls for the sixth wicket, Flintoff became Agarkar's first of the two dismissals that put him on a hat-trick.

Hussain fell in the same manner as Flintoff thirteen minutes before lunch. At 357 for seven India had a chance to restrict England, but the last three wickets produced 130 runs, with Jones and Craig White involved in stand of 62 off 63 balls for the ninth wicket.

ENGLAND — 1st innings:
M. Butcher c Jaffer b Kumble29
(113m, 86b, 4x4)
M. Vaughan lbw b Khan 0
(7m, 5b)
N. Hussain c Ratra b Agarkar155
(458m, 331b, 25x4)
G. Thorpe b Khan 4
(10m, 8b, 1x4)
J. Crawley c Dravid b Sehwag64
(168m, 126b, 9x4)
A. Stewart lbw b Khan19
(79m, 65b, 1x4)
A. Flintoff c Ratra b Agarkar59
(84m, 62b, 10x4, 1x6)
C. White st. Ratra b Kumble53
(123m, 75b, 4x4, 1x6)
A. Giles b Nehra19
(31m, 26b, 3x4)
S. Jones c Dravid b Kumble44
(46m, 43b, 7x4, 1x6)
M. Hoggard (not out)10
(34m, 38b, 2x4)
Extras (b-11, lb-11, nb-7, w-2)31
— —
Total 487
— —
Fall of wickets: 1-0 (Vaughan), 2-71 (Butcher), 3-78 (Thorpe), 4-223 (Crawley), 5-263 (Stewart), 6-356 (Flintoff), 7-357 (Hussain), 8-390 (Giles), 9-452 (Jones) India Bowling: Nehra 30-4-101-1, Khan 36-13-90-3, Agarkar 21-3-98-2, Kumble 48.2-9-128-3, Ganguly 3-1-16-0, Sehwag 10-0-32-1
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