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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rain, rain, rain ...

So, a damp squib of an opening day at Lord's. A sedate start from England's openers after Dhoni won a good toss and opted to field, and I reckon India will feel a bit let down by their performance. Zaheer aside - he really is the most important player on either side - the bowling lacked bite.

Praveen, playing for the first time in England, got the new ball to move about significantly in a nine-over first spell, but was guilty of pitching a tad short on occasion. Seeing Dhoni stand up to the stumps on the first day of a Test was a bit odd, but then Praveen has little pace to speak of. With his style of bowling - a quintessential county bowler, though he's never played in England - Praveen should have been pitching the ball up more to the batsmen. He drew thick edges off Pietersen's bat, with the batsman defending both times. Neither time did the ball carry to a fielder, and Praveen thus should have been getting them driving, so that the harder the shot, the further the ball could have carried. Praveen is a good, smart bowler but appeared to be operating with the kinds of lengths he bowled in his debut series in the West Indies. But the pitches in England are far different, and his lack of experience in such conditions told today. He's a smart nut, and will only improve as the match continues.

Ishant's inexperience of the conditions also showed. He was too leg-side, and wasn't able to hit the deck as hard as he can. Not too many plays and misses or edges off his bowling, and just one peach of a delivery to beat KP's bat and narrowly miss the stumps. Ishant didn't look the bowler who picked up the Man-of-the-Series award in the West Indies.

Zaheer ... well, what to say about Zaheer? Lacking in pace, he was still miles ahead of his bowling team-mates. There was movement, bounce - what was Strauss thinking when he played that shot? - and he constantly had the batsmen watchful. Zaheer v Strauss was one of the key battles going into this series, and round one has gone to the bowler. He picked up Cook (12) with one that nipped back, during an opening spell of 7-3-9-1 and did for Strauss ten balls into his second spell, digging the ball in short. He should have had Trott - by far the most comfortable of batsmen on view - on 32 but inexplicably Dhoni didn't go for a catch off a thick outside edge to a lovely delivery. The ensuing boundary was the first runs England score off Zaheer in 34 deliveries, and his anger was palpable. Trouble for India, though, when he limped off the field with what looked like a hamstring injury. Very bad news for the visitors if he doesn't get better fast.

Trott was lucky to get to an unbeaten half-century by the time rain forced an early abandonment. He was reprieved off the first ball from Harbhajan, with Dravid diving to his right but failing to hold onto the thick outer edge. But he cut and flicked with much comfort, and looked decidedly unruffled. Maybe its just me, but there was a swagger and certain ferocity with which Trott chewed some gum today. He looks good to frustrate India a lot more tomorrow.

KP took 14 balls to get off the mark and was one stage 2 off 23. Hardly a convincing innings from him, with testy moments against Ishant and Praveen. Repeatedly Pietersen tried to off-set the pair by walking across his stumps or down the track, but never managed to put them away. Ishant drew an inside edge when Pietersen was 2, but there was no forward short leg or silly mid-on. Not so smart from Dhoni; at one stage he even operated with a leg slip, so why wasn't a more conventional catcher used?

An iffy sort of day. An engrossing first session, a proper way to get this much anticipated series going. Then India stepped off the pedal, dropped Trott, and lost Zaheer. India would have wanted more wickets, and England will be satisfied with Trott's fluidity and the fact that Pietersen was roughed it out. One of his more nervy innings for some time.

The rain was always expected. Lets hope it stays away, and we can get some more Test cricket in.

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