AHMEDABAD (TIP): For India, this was a morning of immense satisfaction. For the connoisseur, there was the sight of a stately young batsman, Cheteshwar Pujara, completing a second Test century. For the romantics, there was the uplifting sight of Yuvraj Singh, back in Test cricket after treatment for cancer, marking his return with an unbeaten half-century. For England, there was nothing at all.
‘Nothing’ hurt. Nothing meant a ball that refused to deviate, in the air or off the ground, for spin and seam alike, in a session in which India’s first innings moved inexorably past 400. Eighty-seven runs were added in the morning session at a rate of 2.81 runs per over, and the unbroken fifthwicket stand swelled to 127.
This was a Test with an old-fashioned feel; it had a faster scoring rate than many of yore admittedly, but it was a Test in which India’s domination was not expressed noisily, yet seeped into England’s consciousness. There was no DRS to excite the bowlers, no replays to watch, no balltracking technology on show to update cricket by giving it a sense of a computer game. There was just Indian accumulation, enlivened by sporadic bursts of adventure from Yuvraj. Pujara had rounded off the first day by driving Jimmy Anderson crisply through mid-off for four, a satisfying end to an accomplished day. Here, it seemed, was a batsman of poise and character. For a young player to be overnight on 98 not out, however, was bound to be unsettling and England sensed an opportunity.
Stuart Broad allowed him a comfortable leg-side single to move to 99, and hammed up a vociferous lbw appeal for a ball pitching outside leg; Graeme Swann bowled an intelligent maiden. But he picked off another single in Broad’s next over to reach his second Test hundred and celebrated with a quiet air of contentment.Stuart Broad allowed him a comfortable leg-side single to move to 99, and hammed up a vociferous lbw appeal for a ball pitching outside leg; Graeme Swann bowled an intelligent maiden. But he picked off another single in Broad’s next over to reach his second Test hundred and celebrated with a quiet air of contentment.
It was a restrained celebration to mark a restrained innings, characterised by subtle placement and a sober mind. How England must have been cursing Anderson’s inexplicable misjudgement when Pujara was 8, dashing forward too far at mid-on as he misjudged the flight of Pujara’s leading edge against Tim Bresnan. The decline in England’s fielding has been marked for some time and, as Anderson showed again, it is afflicting both the best and the worst. If Pujara celebrated his hundred with a ringing ondrive against Swann for four, Yuvraj, seemed even more uplifted by his young partner’s success. Yuvraj’s skip down the pitch to strike Swann straight for six was the shot of the morning and was followed by a sweep that fell short of six by inches. Fifteen came from the over; if India broke Swann, England really were in trouble.
England had called for the new ball four overs before the end of play on the opening day and, just as it had the previous evening, it passed without consequence. Swann had a lengthy bowl with it and had one half-decent lbw appeal against Pujara when he padded one away, a triple-decker appeal delivered on full, desperate crouch. Broad, who already looks irritated by the absence of DRS, and this is only the second day of the series, had a few shouts which served only to work off his frustration. The BCCI, which seems to like feeling in control of its product, does not just oppose DRS, it disallows the showing of Hawk Eye on its TV coverage. Covering the tour back in England after a payment dispute, Sky TV’s commentators were having a sneaky look at Hawk Eye at the back of the box. They muttered quietly that the umpires were having a good day. If Swann posed England’s greatest threat, Samit Patel was an inconsequential second spinner. His place at No. 6 is justified by his adroitness against spin but, in this Test, his own left-arm slows looked unthreatening, slightly round-arm. Yuvraj, as a left-hander, had an appetite for them. He struck him over midwicket to reach his fifty and soon afterwards lofted him straight for six.