India v England: Lessons as Swann stars for the tourists on day one
India v England: Matt Cansick takes a look at the talking points from day one of the first Test in Ahmedabad
Swann keeps England in the game
With England asked to field after losing the toss, India amassed an impressive 323-4 by the close of play, with Virender Sehwag notching up his 23rd Test hundred and Cheteshwar Pujara hitting a four off the last ball of the day to end unbeaten on 98. Graeme Swann finished with figures of 4-85 off 32 overs, but equally significant was the timing of the wickets he took. His first, that of Gautam Gambhir, came with India 134 without loss, and his second removed Sehwag who had been scoring at a prodigious rate. Sachin Tendulkar and the particularly dangerous Virat Kohli were added to his list of victims without either settling in, and despite the quick bowlers having an almost-new ball to play with on Friday, Swann remains England’s best hope of restricting India to a more modest total than looks possible at the moment.
Questions over selection
Swann’s success has raised questions about England’s team selection for the first Test. Samit Patel got very little turn from the ball, although he did play his part in stemming the flow of runs towards the end of the day. The inclusion of Monty Panesar would have weakened the batting, and hindsight can be a wonderful thing, but there are times when England seem to stick with their four-man bowling attack simply out of principle. The argument that Patel in effect makes this a five-man attack is logical, but one does feel that in an ideal world, Andy Flower and Alastair Cook would like to have enough confidence in their top six – Prior moving up a spot in the order – to leave room for a dedicated second spinner. The pressure is now on the Nottinghamshire all-rounder to showcase his abilities with a solid score in England’s first innings.
Crucial day in prospect
Even a morning session blitz from England’s bowlers on Friday will not hide the fact that the tourists are already up against it. The scoring-rate from India, spurred on by Sehwag’s run-a-ball 117, was close to five an over until the final session, when it was brought down to a more palatable 3.5. And, with six wickets left, they will be confident of passing 500 with some quality batting still to come in the order. Scoring 550 in the first innings doesn’t necessarily cement a win, but it can just about negate a loss, and the pressure will be on openers Cook and Compton even if their team-mates somehow manage to restrict the hosts to around 400. Losing the toss was always going to make winning the match very difficult, and while we are only one day into this Test, it already looks like a draw would be a good result for England.