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India battled hard on the opening day of the fourth test at Nagpur, as they attempt to avoid an ignominious series defeat at the hands of the English. England were limited to just 199-5 at the end of play on Day 1 with Ishant Sharma being Indiaâ€™s standout bowler, taking 2-32. Ravidra Jadeja, on his test debut, also scalped two wickets, including that of Kevin Pietersen who scored 73. Matt Prior and Joe Root brought the English innings back on track with an unbeaten 60 run partnership, and will continue play tomorrow morning, looking to keep India's four-pronged spin attack at bay.
India's hopes of bouncing back in the fourth test at Nagpur got a bit of an early jolt as Alastair Cook's tactic of calling 'heads' at each toss finallly paid off with the England skipper winning his first toss of the series. The rookie skipper on the verge of an amazing series win in India had no hesitation in opting to bat first of an ash white wicket in Nagpur which surprisingly had quite a few cracks up and down the pitch.
England also made two changes to their team with Tim Bresnan returning to the fold in place of the injured Steven Finn, while Joe Root was given the opportunity to make his debut in place of the struggling Samit Patel. India meanwhile also made two changes to their playing eleven - with Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan dropped from the squad altogether, replacements were imminent, those spots were rather surprisingly handed to the allrounder Ravindra Jadeja and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla with Ajnikya Rahane and Ashok Dinda forced to watch yet another game from the sidelines.
As always, Alastair Cook and Nick Compton came out to open the England innings. They started off defensively, content with nudging around the singles and avoiding deliveries that posed any risk. The only pace bowler on the Indian side, Ishant Sharma, opened the bowling, with Pragyan Ojha joining him at the other end.
There was a bit of excitement in the second over, with Piyush Chawla attempting to run Nick Compton out. While Chawla did react rather quickly, Compton had crossed the crease by the time the ball had left Chawlaâ€™s hand. Three overs later, however, Ishant Sharma struck for India as Compton (3) nicked a delivery and was caught behind by Dhoni to leave England 3-1. With an early wicket tilting the scales in Indiaâ€™s favor, Jonathan Trott came out to bat at number three.
Ishant Sharma seemed to be in his elements today, as he picked up the wicket of the in-form Cook (1) a few overs later. Cook will consider himself unlucky to be given out leg before, further analysis of the delivery showed that it would clearly have missed the stumps. Kevin Pietersen walked in at number four, with England tottering at 16/2. Ravindra Jadeja took over from Sharma in the 13th over while Piyush Chawla was given the ball in the 21st.
Pietersen and Trott proceeded to dig themselves in, and no amount of coaxing by Chawla or Jadeja made them risk their wickets. Ravichandran Ashwin finally came in to bowl in the 30th over, and Sharma was brought back with him. However, there were no further casualties, the teams went for lunch with England at 61/2.
The English batsmen seemed to be more comfortable after lunch, while the Indian spinners struggled to get any turn of note on the first day pitch. Clearly, India should have gone with an extra pacer. Ishant Sharma has been the best bowler by far, and was the India teamâ€™s only hope of doing any real damage.
With the exception of Pietersen bringing up a half century, it was more or less an uneventful session as the teams went in for drinks with England comfortably place at 101/2.
The break proved to be the perfect the foil for the Indians as they struck in the first over after. Jonathan Trott inexplicably left a straight ball from Ravindra Jadeja, and heard the sound of timber to head back to the pavilion with 44 to his name. Jadeja was cock-a-hoop, celebrating his maiden test wicket on debut.
India had done a terrific job of drying the runs up once again, and Dhoni had been spectacular with his field placings today, almost getting Pietersen twice caught close on the leg side. India though were rewarded for their inventiveness with Piyush Chawla striking in the first over of his second spell, getting Ian Bell caught at short cover for a painstaking 1 from 28 balls.
Joe Root came out for his test debut, and looked like a terrific young prospect, playing a couple of spectacular cover drives to race to 10 as England went into tea at 133-4.
Pietersen fell soon after the teams returned from tea, becoming Jadejaâ€™s second victim of the day. He had contributed a crucial 73 when his attempted clip through the legside went uppishly to midwicket, where Ojha did well, coming forward to take the catch. Five down, the pressure was really on the inexperienced Root and Matt Prior, to guide England to safety.
And that is exactly what they did. Prior took command of proceedings out in the middle, while Root looked very much the Yorshireman at the other end, providing him with great support. The two slowly brought the English innings back on track, adding an unbeaten 60 runs for the 6th wicket. The Indian spinners seemed to struggle once again as they felt the pinch of a pitch that provided no turn whatsoever. England ended the day without losing anymore wickets, at 199-5.
Armed with the knowledge that they do not really need to win this test to take the series, England can afford to take their time batting out in the middle. Despite the 60 run stand, India will believe that a couple of wickets early tomorrow could put them firmly in the driver's seat, and if they can dismiss England for near about 250, the hosts have every chance of winning this game
India: G Gambhir, V Sehwag, C Pujara, S Tendulkar, V Kohli, R Jadeja, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, P Chawla, I Sharma, P Ojha.
England: A Cook, N Compton, J Trott, K Pietersen, I Bell, J Root, M Prior, G Swann, T Bresnan, J Anderson, M Panesar
England 1st Innings 199/5 97 overs
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