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A whole hearted display from the English bowlers, led by spearhead Jimmy Anderson (3/68) helped the Poms gain the upper hand on the first day of the 3rd test match at the Eden Gardens on Wednesday. Having fortuitously bagged the wicket of a the dangerous Virender Sehwag through a run out in the morning session, the English bowlers stuck to their task for the rest of the day and toiled hard on a good batting wicket in Kolkata to keep the mighty Indian batting to just 273-7 at stumps.
The legendary Sachin Tendulkar top scored for the hosts with 76 and while most of the top order got off to decent starts, nobody went on to convert them into a three figure score. For England, Monty Panesar (2/74) aided Anderson admirably to help his side tighten the screws on the hosts.
With the series level at 1-1, and nothing much to choose between the teams, we were in for an intriguing contest on the opening day of the third test in Kolkata. The Indian captain MS Dhoni won the toss on a hard wicket at the Eden Gardens and had no hesitation in batting first. There were few changes in the playing XIs of either side as both teams lined up pretty much as expected. India brought in Delhi fast bowler Ishant Sharma in place of Harbhajan Singh while England made 2 changes to the team that won in Mumbai with Steve Finn and Ian Bell coming in for Stuart Broad and Jonny Bairstow.
The Indian openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had a testing time in the first hour against the English new ball bowlers. The dynamic duo had to contend with some swing from maestro James Anderson early on along with the extra pace and bounce of the tall Steve Finn. There were a few plays and misses and some streaky boundaries initially before the openers finally settled in.
Gambhir helped himself to another invaluable start, given his poor form of late, and put on 47 with a competent looking Sehwag at the other end before a huge mix-up ended the stand. Having flicked the ball on the on side, Sehwag was looking for 3 but no response from his partner meant that the dashing opener was stranded in the middle of the pitch, run out for 23. India's best batsman in the series so far, Cheteshwar Pujara walked in at No.3. The Saurashtra batsman took his time to settle in while Gambhir was slowly finding some form and helped himself into the 40s on a good batting deck.
The pair put on 41 for the second wicket and just as they looked comfortable going into lunch, Panesar got one through Pujara's lazy defence and bowled him for 16, to get England back into the contest.
Gambhir got to his fifty before Lunch and he was joined by another out of form batsman in Sachin Tendulkar at No.4. Both batsmen though, safely saw India through to lunch on day 1 at 90-2.
The session after lunch was an intriguing contest between bat and ball. In what was one of the best sessions of test match cricket one will ever see, England tested the Indian batsmen with both pace and spin. The tourists dried up the runs in the first hour play, making Gambhir and Tendulkar graft hard. The pair put on 26 runs in about 15 overs after lunch a period where Monty Panesar probed away without much success.
The left-arm spinner varied his pace nicely and troubled both batsmen by attacking the stumps. The pair though seemed to have gotten past a tough period before Gambhir (60) was finally picked up by Panesar. The pressure was built up on the out of form left hander before the Delhi batsmen was dismissed caught at slip, looking to cut an incoming ball.
Virat Kohli then walked out to bat no.5 and took a lot of time to get going. Tendulkar meanwhile had spent decent time in the middle and was looking like he was getting a hang of the conditions. The right handed duo though managed only 19 runs for the third wicket before a brilliant spell from Anderson got England another crucial wicket.
The English spearhead got the ball to move both ways in the air and bowled some unplayable deliveries which the batsmen were lucky to survive.
But, just as it looked like Anderson wasn't having the rub of the green going his way, he finally got Kohli (6) to nick one to second slip at the end of his spell. The ball held its line after coming in with the angle and caught the young batsman in two minds, with Graeme Swann taking a sharp catch low to his left. India were in a spot of bother at 136/4 when another out of form player in Yuvraj Singh walked out to bat at no.6 against a pumped up English attack.
He took a couple overs to settle in before he joined Tendulkar to counter punch for the home side. The duo gradually upped the tempo to get some momentum back on India's side. They played some clever shots against Anderson and Swann to get the score moving again before Tea. At tea on the first day, the game was tantalizingly poised with India on 172/4 after having fought back with an unbeaten 36 run stand for the 5th wicket.
Yuvraj and Sachin continued to counter attack after tea as the pair looked to put the pressure back on a disciplined English attack. Tendulkar got to his fifty off the first ball of the session, with a neat flick off his pads off the bowling Finn and was on the look out for runs straight thereafter. Yuvraj too was keen to keep the pressure on the English attack as he launched Panesar for a straight six to make his intentions clear.
The duo added 43 runs in about 9 overs after the break and looked all set for more before England's off spinner Graeme Swann, who had been inconspicuous for most of the day, struck against the run of play. Yuvraj's back-foot punch off Swann went uppishly to Alastair Cook at short extra cover as the ball seemed to have held up on him a touch. The left hander was dismissed for a disappointing 32 after having got off to a start.
Indian skipper MS Dhoni, armed with a terrific record in Kolkata, joined Tendulkar, but their together was a short one as the Little Master fell prey to a lapse in concentration after the drinks interval. England's best bowler on the day, Jimmy Anderson, got the great man to edge one straight after drinks as Matt Prior held to an excellent low catch. Sachin fell 24 short of yet another test century for a well grafted 76.
With the team in trouble at 230/6, India's very capable no.8 Ravi Ashwin came out to bat. The last recognized pair of Dhoni and Ashwin nudged their way to a useful stand of 38 before the 2nd new ball did the trick for the tourists. Having delayed the second new ball by 6 overs, Cook finally decided to have a go with the new cherry and his premier fast bowler delivered again. Anderson got one through Ashwin (21) with a lovely inswinger that shattered the stumps in the penultimate over of the day. Consequently, At stumps on day 1, it was England who bagged the honours having kept India down to a mediocre 273-7 on what looked like flat batting deck.
Another disciplined bowling effort from England has helped them get into a good position in the crucial 3rd test. The Poms will be hoping that they dismiss the hosts under 300 to get a psychological edge before they go in to bat on day 2, on what could be the best day for batting in the test match. India on the other hand will look to add as many runs on the board as possible with their remaining 3 wickets to give their bowlers something to defend on a placid track.
India: G Gambhir, V Sehwag, C Pujara, S Tendulkar, V Kohli, Y Singh, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, I Sharma, Z Khan, P Ojha
England: A Cook, N Compton, J Trott, K Pietersen, I Bell, S Patel, M Prior, G Swann, J Anderson, M Panesar, S Finn
India 1st innings 273-7 (90 overs, 3.03 rpo)
S Tendulkar 76(155) J Anderson3/68
G Gambhir 60(124) M Panesar 2/74
File Photograph Copyright: BCCI
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