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Sehwag, Swann share opening day honours of Ahmedabad Test

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virender_sehwagThe first day of the highly anticipated India-England test series didn't disappoint cricket lovers as the vocal crowd in Ahmedabad witnessed a good day of test cricket that saw Virender Sehwag (117) take the attack to the touring English side and put India on top before Graeme Swann brought England right back into the contest by picking up 4 big scalps with his fine brand of off-spin bowling. India were reduced to 283/4 from 224/1 before Cheteshwar Pujara(98*) and Yuvraj Singh(22*) saw the day through at 323/4  without further damage, leaving the game tantalizingly poised for day 2. India started off in great style as Gautam Gambhir(45) and Sehwag put on 134 for the first wicket at a quick rate before Pujara later consolidated India’s position with another dogged innings of 98 unbeaten to put India ahead of the game despite Swann’s heroics on what looked like a flat, slow deck in Ahmedabad.

The much talked about 1st Test of the the 4 match India-England series kicked off amidst clear skies at the VCA stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad on Thursday. The Indian captain M S Dhoni won a crucial toss and chose to bat on a dry wicket to get things started on a positive note for the home side, who will be looking to avenge their 4-0 loss to their opponents in England earlier this year.

India's playing XI was pretty much on expected lines with Yuvraj Singh making a comeback into the test team after a 5 month long hiatus and 2 spinners in Ravi Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha making the cut ahead of the experienced Harbhajan Singh. England on the other hand gave a first test cap to young opener Nick Compton who will have the big shoes of the recently retired Andrew Strauss to fill. Steve Finn hadn't recovered from the injury he sustained in the practice game a couple of weeks ago and he was replaced by the versatile Tim Bresnan.

India’s under-fire openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir vindicated their captain’s decision to take first strike by getting their team off to a great start in the first session of the series. England’s new ball bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad didn’t get any assistance on a re-laid wicket in Motera and toiled away with no rewards. Gambhir and Sehwag fought through a couple of anxious moments at the start before taking the attack to the English team. Sehwag played some incredible shots through the off side, timing the ball sweetly as his partner Gambhir looked a lot more circumspect, picking runs off his pads and defending doggedly around his off stump. India reached 42/0 after the first 10 overs, settling any nerves in the dressing room. Sehwag, exploded after drinks, taking Tim Bresnan to the cleaners, scoring 15 off the 17th over including a stupendous six over the long on fence.

The Nawab of Najafgarh, looked more and more at ease as the session wore on and started striking some lusty blows on both sides of the wicket. He reached fifty, the 33rd off his career in just 45 balls and took India past the 100 run stand for the first wicket along with Gambhir for the first time in 33 innings. England’s best bowler for the conditions, Graeme Swann, created some doubts in the mind of the left handed Gambhir, pegging away relentlessly at his off stump, with subtle variations of pace and spin. The out of form left hander had his hands full dealing with the wily off-spinner while Sehwag made it look ridiculously easy at the other end, taking the pressure off his partner. As a result of that aggressive partnership India made it to a comfortable 120/0 at Lunch with Sehwag within sight off his 23rd test Hundred not out on 79 and Gambhir keeping him company on 37.

England's lead bowler Graeme Swann started off proceedings after lunch and was effective straight away. He troubled the left-hander Gambhir with his nagging accuracy around the left lander’s off stump. England then let themselves down in the field as Matt Prior missed a couple of opportunities to dismiss both India's openers. He dropped a tough one handed catch down the leg side of the dangerous Virender Sehwag while on 80 off Anderson before missing a regulation chance off the advancing Gautam Gambhir off Swann. The second of those reprieves though, didn't cost the Poms too much as Swann got one through Gambhir(45) in the same over knocking his off stump out.

That wicket turned out to be a momentary reprieve though as Cheteshwar Pujara walked in at No.3 and looked in sublime touch right from the start. After surviving a missed judged chance at mid-on the Suarashtra right-hander played with great assurance and poise. He was decisive in his foot work and fed off the confidence exuded by Sehwag to play some scintillating punches off the front foot. He was severe on anything slightly loose from the English bowlers. Pujara surprisingly outscored his partner at the other end making the larger proportion of their 90 run stand. Sehwag at the other end meandered through the nineties by his standards before lofting one over mid-on to bring up his 23rd hundred, his first in over 2 years. The pair were milking the bowling comfortably and took the Indian score past 200 scoring at well over 4 runs per over before Sehwag's rush of blood against Swann cost him duly. The belligerent right hander swept across an off-spinner from Swann off the very first ball off his new spell, only to see his stumps rattled after having made a splendid 117 at a run a ball. That wicket brought to the wicket the under pressure Sachin Tendulkar who looked to be in good touch too on this insipid first day wicket in Motera before he was beaten in the flight by Swann a few overs later and was held safely on the deep mid-wicket boundary after making just 13. Pujara though looked solid at the other end and went past a 50 with ease and was looking ominous along with the new batsman Virat Kohli. England pulled things back admirably at 250/3 at Tea with Swann bowling a commendable spell.

The session after Tea was an intriguing battle of attrition with Graeme Swann cock-a-hoop. Pujara and Virat Kohli were tied down by Swann and Anderson straight after tea, bringing the run rate down considerably. The first 6 overs after Tea yielded just 2 runs with Virat Kohli being made to work hard to get off the mark. The Delhi batsman finally got off the mark with a fine on drive past Stuart Broad after 29 deliveries. Just as it seemed like Kohli and Pujara got a hang of proceedings and were building a partnership, Swann got one to rip from outside off-stump and cut Kohli(19) into half, uprooting his middle stump.  The 33-run partnership was broken as a result of some tight bowling from both ends after tea. Yuvraj Singh came out at No.6 in his first test match after recovering from cancer and looked circumspect at the start looking to see out the day. He was tested relentlessly by Swann from around the wicket late in the day searching for an opening into India’s lower order. Pujara at the other end looked calm and composed at the other end accumulating runs diligently albeit at a slower rate than in the middle session.

Runs were at a premium all of a sudden in the last session and the Indian batsmen were made to toil against the run of play to see of the day’s play. England took the second new ball towards the fag end of the day with 4 overs to go but it didn’t pose too many problems to Pujara and Yuvraj who saw the day through for India on 323/4, with former just 2 runs short of his 2nd test hundred going into day 2 in Ahmedabad.

Teams:

India: V Sehwag, G Gambhir, C Pujara, S Tendulkar, V Kohli, Y Singh, M S Dhoni, R Ashwin, Z Khan, U Yadav, P Ojha

England: N Compton, A Cook, I Bell, K Pietersen, J Trott, S Patel, M Prior, T Bresnan, G Swann, S Broad, J Anderson

Mini Scorecard

India 323/4 (90 overs,3.58 rpo)

V Sehwag 117(117) G Swann 4/85

C Pujara 98*(181)

Photograph Copyright: BCCI