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England parry early blows

cricket Updated: Jul 22, 2011 09:50 IST
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

On a gripping opening day's play, marred by rain and Zaheer Khan's injury, India and England came out even.

Put in, the England batsmen were on the back-foot before an injury to tormentor-in-chief, Zaheer Khan, allowed them to breathe easy. As play came to a premature end, India had mixed emotions as fingers were crossed over the extent of Zaheer's injury.

First blood
Till tragedy struck in the 42nd over, it was a Zaheer show. Ever since the dates of the series were announced, the left-arm pacer was keyed up to make an impact. He had no doubts on how big it would be. A packed Lord's, the first day of the fight for the No. 1 spot - it doesn't get any bigger. So Zaheer had told his mentor, Sudhir Naik, six months ago.

The adrenaline rush was there for everyone to see as he produced a mesmerising spell of swing and seam bowling. Zaheer enhanced his fearsome reputation against the left-handers by claiming the wickets of both the England openers.

Alastair Cook was snared first. He was set up with a clever mix of away and in-swingers before he missed an incoming ball which was going to hit the top of the middle and leg stump.

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Andrew Strauss, who was concentrating hard on playing the swing, was surprised by a sharp bouncer which he instinctively skied to Ishant Sharma at fine-leg.

Zaheer was especially incisive after lunch when he claimed the England captain during a spell of 4-4-0-1. His figures after his second spell read 11-7-9-2. Just before he limped off, he had produced the ball of the day by turning Jonathan Trott inside out only to see the thick edge whiz past Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Rahul Dravid, at first slip. Trott, who held fort with an unbeaten half-century, was on 32.

Right call
Earlier, skipper Dhoni did India a favour by calling correctly and had no hesitation in putting the home team in. His instinctive decision of trying out Harbhajan Singh after just 18 overs almost proved to be a masterstroke when Trott edged the very first ball to slip, but Dravid, failed to take the sharp chance.

Apart from Zaheer, there was little to choose between the sides. Though Trott and Kevin Pietersen batted doggedly, no other batsmen looked settled.

Lord's syndrome
Zaheer's pace partners struggled to tune their game to the conditions. Ishant Sharma seemed to be suffering the famous Lord's syndrome and was all over when he bowled into the slope. He was more accurate after a change of ends but did not have the bite and pace to ruffle the batsmen.

Praveen Kumar got the ball to swing but didn't have the speed to be incisive.