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India’s pace odyssey

cricket Updated: Jul 28, 2007 12:50 IST
Rohit Mahajan
Rohit Mahajan
Hindustan Times
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When play did finally begin on a farcical Friday afternoon, it turned out there indeed was a devil in the pitch --- after remaining three days under the covers, and with the whole outfield waterlogged, it was damp. And the ball swung and seamed.

India, thus, got a break when Rahul Dravid won the toss --- he was a bit unsure about his decision, but when Zaheer Khan struck twice and RP Singh once early, it was clear that that was the right decision.

The Indians came out swinging, literally --- Andrew Strauss was removed early, Michael Vaughan got struck on his temple before he was prised out, and when Kevin Pietersen was sent back by RP Singh, England were 47 for three --- and in big trouble.

Alastair Cook and Paul Collingwood steadied the ship, blunting India's fire with menace of their own --- the runs came at a fast clip as the two struck back, and the Indian attack began to look frayed. It was an important partnership, for the batsmen to come had not looked too good so far.

But when their stand was worth 54, Collingwood made a fatal error --- without moving his feet, he listlessly attempted to drive an inswinger from S Sreesanth and edged the ball to his stumps.

Earlier, when play started at three in the afternoon, Zaheer was magnificent --- he moved the ball a great deal and troubled both Strauss and Vaughan. Strauss smacked a four off him on the fifth ball in the first over, but that was all he got. He played a loose drive outside off to a perfectly pitched outswinger and edged it to Sachin Tendulkar at first slip.

At the other end, Sreesanth was erratic --- the ball was swinging all over and the England batsmen took their opportunities, Cook being the more aggressive.

In the ninth over, Vaughan got hit on his helmet as he tried to hook Zaheer; the England captain then flicked one to the boundary, but he was clearly rattled. When Zaheer bowled the last ball of the over, a rising one, which moved away, Vaughan jabbed tentatively and edged it.

Pietersen had struck three fours in his 13 when RP Singh nailed him --- the ball swung back and hit Pietersen's back pad, and the umpire raised his finger with alacrity.

The play, though, did not start with alacrity.

A huge cheer went up at the Trent Bridge ground at 2.10 in the afternoon --- it had just been announced that the second Test would begin in 50 minutes, four hours behind schedule due to the soggy outfield.

The fans, tired of guzzling beer, also had had enough of the exhilarating sight of the Super Soppers at work or the players warming up, and there were signs of rejoicing all around.

Ten minutes later, the players were seen sprinting back into the pavilion, the pitch cover was pushed in and men carrying huge blue tarpaulin sheets rushed in --- a sudden, freakish burst of rain had sent plans haywire.

Meanwhile, India went into the Test with an unchanged XI. Ganguly’s back strain, the team management decided, had disappeared.

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