The first day of the first Test against India could have gone a lot better for England. Things did not start well when England captain Alastair Cook lost the toss with India electing to bat first on the flattest pitch England will play on for probably the next two years. The ball did very little in terms of seam and swing although Graeme Swann dominated England’s bowling attack taking the four wickets.
There is also a slight cause for confusion in the team England decided to go with. Swann weighed in heavily but he has not been backed up by the extra spin of Monty Panesar with England electing to strengthen their batting with the inclusion of Samit Pate. On a pitch where spin is going to be the obvious main weapon, this choice was baffling.
Add to that the inclusion of Stuart Broad who didn’t play in the last warm up game before this Test match. Broad has a very good Test match record but history has shown that he under performs when he has not had perfect preparation. This was demonstrated by the fact Broad bowled 17 overs for 71 runs with only one maiden. Graham Onions is bound to be kicking himself considering his accuracy and skill on flat wickets.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom because Swann returned figures of four wickets for 85 runs from 32 overs. There was a slight worry that he would not be in the right frame of mind to play having recently visited his ill daughter in the UK. However, he has been assured on that front and he actually looked very fired up and got the key wickets of Gambhir, Sehwag, Tendulkar and Kohli, all terrific players of spin. Even more encouraging was the fact that Swann was able to get turn from the flat wicket although that could equally mean bad news and nightmares for the English batsmen.
India are in control and if Pujara goes on to complete his century and is supported by the rest of the Indian batting order then England could be looking at a first innings deficit of well over 450-500 runs. This will mean the Indian spinners can bowl long spells on a pitch that has already started to spin.
On the batting front England will have to dig in when they go in tomorrow and they cannot afford to lose cheap or early wickets. The flatness of the pitch won’t charge for the first two to three days and England need to make sure they are in a steady position by days four and five which will give them the best possible chance of saving the match because the imminent massive total from India means England are unlikely to win it.
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