Birmingham: For a change Mahendra Singh Dhoni lost the toss and was put in to bat only to be bundled out for 224 on a comparatively slow pitch before Andrew Struass and Alastair Cook piled on more misery on India with an unbeaten opening partnership of 84 on Day 1 of the Edgbaston Test.
A late surge by Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (77) helped India reach a total of 224 on a day dominated by the pacers lead by Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad who scalped four wickets each ably supported by James Anderson.
Andrew Strauss (52*)and Alastair Cook (27) then played out the rest of the day scoring 84 runs for the opening wicket as both batsmen found their form in the middle.
Indian pacers were rendered toothless by the duo as they toyed with bowling attack cutting and pulling at will. Sreesanth, after a good start leaked runs with his wayward line and length whereas Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma in their usual way looked effective only in patches.
Amit Mishra got the taste of English summer and he was also not allowed to settle in.
Earlier in the day, with the backdrop of Birmingham riots, India and England squared off for the third time in the npower Test series. Andrew Strauss won the toss and put India to bat. Critics viewed that the decision might backfire.
But right from the onset, English bowlers set about with their usual business nullifying the pre-match buzz over Virender ‘saviour’ Sehwag as Stuart Broad gave the English a sensational start with his very first ball of the match.
A sharp rising delivery kissed Sehwag’s gloves before ending up in Prior’s safe hands, though umpire Steve Davies failed to notice the nick. DRS confirmed the faint edge and the ‘saviour’ was sent packing even before he had started unpacking.
Dravid soon found himself in a familiar territory facing the new ball under heavy overcast conditions that proliferated the swing.
Rahul Dravid and Gautam Gambhir then steadied the innings after the first ball departure of maverick Sehwag. Gambhir and Dravid hit some exquisite shots to the fence which were well applauded by the large crowd.
Dravid went about his business with deft touches and solid defence whereas the intent from Gambhir was quite positive as he hammered two magnificent straight drives coming from the meat of the bat.
All was going well for India until Tim Bresnan came into the attack and after few quiet overs he picked up Gambhir.
Gauti failed to push on his good start as Bresnan’s ball took the inside edge of Gambhir’s bat to crash on to the leg stump of the southpaw. The wicket came in as a surprise as he was getting into his groove after a shaky start. Gambhir played an enterprising innings of 38.
By the time the teams dispersed for lunch, India were tottering at 75 for 4 with both Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid back in the pavilion.
Sachin Tendulkar once again got out nervously poking at a wide delivery to third slip off Broad for just one run.
Three overs later at the stroke of lunch Bresnan provided the body blow with the wicket of Dravid. Bresnan produced a peach of a delivery, probably the ball of the day that swung late and deviated just enough to knock over Dravid’s off stump.
The morning session of Day 1 of Edgbaston Test followed the series norm as England took the top honours.
After lunch, VVS Laxman and Suresh Raina had the uphill task of pulling India out of trouble but instead they left the crease in a hurry putting India in deep trouble.
Laxman (30) looked ominous till the time he was at the crease latching on to every rare loose delivery of the English bowlers dispatching it to the fence with his lazy elegance.
Raina, on the other hand looked tentative during his stay in the middle with no intention of coming forward evidently expecting a short delivery every ball but he was undone cleverly by a fuller one by Anderson.
VVS Laxman departed immediately after as he pulled one straight to fine leg. This was the second time he got out in the same fashion. Laxman had looked good during his 41 ball stay which included some of his trademark flick to the leg side fence.
Dhoni came into bat and provided a bit of firework as the Captain for the first time in the series batted with some positive intent. He hit some lusty blows over the top and powered his way to break the monotonous English morning.
For a change MSD started using the blade for what it is meant for, slamming a brisk half century and along with the gritty Praveen Kumar compiled an 84-run partnership to put India on track for a respectable total.
This was the only phase of the match where England Captain Andrew Strauss seemed to miss a trick or two as he went defensive against the counter-attacking ploy.
But Strauss misjudgement was very well covered by some fine bowling by the pacers.
Just before tea, Praveen Kumar’s resolute innings came to an end as Steve Davies once again was forced to change his decision owing to DRS. Bresnan picked up his third in the process.
Praveen, in a bid to pull a short delivery managed a faint edge to keeper Matt Prior for 26.
Dhoni along with the tail enders Ishant and Sreesanth went on the offensive for a brief time to put up 224 before being bundled out.
India were again all out for under 300 on a pitch which cannot be termed as bowler friendly barring the early morning overcast condition.
England came into bat and they were off to a solid start with Alastair Cook and Captain Andrew Strauss standing firm with their first opening half century partnership for the series. They finished the day at 84 for no loss.
The opener’s lack of form was the only missing link in the near perfect English line-up and the way they both played the evening session clearly hints that the hosts have got the final piece of their puzzle solved.
Indian bowling coming into the series was doubted as one not capable of picking up 20 wickets in a match and the two previous Test matches were a proof of that. Here also the four men Indian attack rendered themselves toothless.
Day 2 could see England flying off with the advantage as has been the case in the previous two Test matches with India’s No.1 position getting weaker or India could fight back on back of Dhoni’s own form transcending into his captaincy and with the help of leggie Amit Mishra.