Sunday 28 May 2017

Morgan duck as England tail saves the day

Stephen Brenkley , at Trent Bridge

TEST cricket has now joined luminaries from Mark Twain to Pope John Paul II in having reports of its demise exaggerated.

After being revived in spectacular fashion for its 2,000th match at Lord's, it was bristling with life and excitement on the first day of its 2,001st outing yesterday. There were wickets galore, a belated and hugely important flurry of runs by England, a spat or two and a rip-roaring contest in the making.

If the Trent Bridge pitch was a touch too sporting, bowlers the world over would say it was about time. The ball swung throughout, seamed a little less and provided a prolonged test of method and application.

Had England possessed more of the latter, they might have survived to make more than 221 all out. Then again, they might have made many fewer, but for a rumbustious ninth-wicket partnership between Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann.

In 15 action-packed overs in the evening, England kept beating the bat, but never repeated the success they managed with the first ball of India's innings when Abhinav Mukund drove Jimmy Anderson to gully. India finished at 24 for one, but they will require all their experience and skill today.

Swann was taken to hospital for an X-ray on his hand, hit when he was out, but in this innings at least, he may not be the difference for England.

Andrew Strauss, the England captain, is not one to show his feelings during a game, whichever of the twin imposters are in town. For all his sangfroid, close examination might have been able to detect a tear in the corner of his eye when he lost the toss.

India's three seamers, lips smacking as they ran to the crease, all acquitted themselves with purpose. All are captivating coves. Praveen Kumar, who is 24 and in only his fifth Test match, is a feisty individual who makes England's own Mr Grumpy, Anderson, seem like a ray of sunshine.

Ishant Sharma shared the new ball with him. There was a difference in Sharma from the hippy figure seen at Lord's. His new haircut makes him now look something like a chartered accountant.

The third of the seam trio, Sree Sreesanth, was selected instead of the injured Zaheer Khan and was one of two changes in the tourists' team, along with Gautam Gambhir, who had not recovered from the elbow injury he sustained at Lord's and was replaced by Yuvraj Singh.

There had already been a scare or two by the time, in the sixth over, that Alastair Cook was out. He pushed forward to Sharma, was beaten by some movement and declared to be lbw.

Before lunch, Jonathan Trott, in most atypical fashion, drove at an outswinger from Sreesanth, the first ball he had received from the bowler, and saw it end up in VVS Laxman's hands at second slip.

There might have been another wicket before the break. Kumar forcibly disagreed with the decision of umpire Marais Erasmus not to give Kevin Pietersen out lbw.

wrecked

England's innings was wrecked in the two-hour middle session. Pietersen, disturbed by a loose flap above the sightscreen at the pavilion end, was caught at third slip.

Strauss had played 12 balls without scoring and was out to the next as he tried needlessly to break the shackles with an airy drive to Kumar. His best Test score of the season remains 32. Like this shot, it is not good enough. His demise led to two more wickets in rapid succession, Eoin Morgan for his second duck in two matches, beaten by a ball moving away, and Matt Prior edging a peach of a ball to second slip.

A minor recovery was halted in its tracks when Tim Bresnan was squared up by Sharma and wonderfully caught by Rahul Dravid leaping to his left. Ian Bell was next when he played a rash square cut on the stroke of tea.

At 124-8, England looked doomed. Broad and Swann decided they had to chance their arm and in doing so they forced India to lose their previous discipline. In 70 balls came 73 runs. They were crucial runs and they enhanced another lovely day at the cricket. (© Independent News Servive)

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