Analysis - Sehwag, Pujara Put Sloppy England To The Sword

Analysis - Sehwag, Pujara Put Sloppy England To The Sword
Analysis - Sehwag, Pujara Put Sloppy England To The Sword
©REUTERS / Action Images

Steve Waugh famously called winning a Test series in India cricket's 'final frontier'. England haven't managed one since 1985 and to emulate that performance they will need to up their game from after the opening day in Ahmedabad.

While it could have been a lot worse for the tourists had Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli not fallen cheaply, it could and should have been a lot better. Dropped catches allowed Virender Sehwag and Kohli extra opportunities and while Kohli couldn't take advantage, Sehwag certainly did. Gautam Gambhir might have been stumped and Cheteshwar Pujara could have been caught by James Anderson but for a misjudgment.

His 117 was his first Test century for two years but if it puts India on course for victory, it will prove to be worth the wait and it was a typically dashing, destructive Sehwag innings. It meant that despite England being able to choke the run-rate late on through Graeme Swann and Samit Patel, India had managed to score their runs at a good lick overall but bet365 have reacted by making England 14/1 to win this match - India are rated as 4/7 favourites and the draw is available at 7/4.

With hindsight we can say that England would have been better served by picking Monty Panesar but with Stuart Broad just coming back from injury, they were always likely to play it safe.

Swann wasn't playing it safe and his four wickets - all of them to fall in the day's play - took him past Jim Laker, making him England's most successful off-spinner in terms of wickets taken. It's been some journey for the Nottinghamshire man since marking his debut in India four years ago with the wickets of Gambhir and Rahul Dravid in his first over.

Today he bowled Gambhir, Sehwag and Kohli and had Tendulkar oddly caught in the deep shortly before tea. Zlatan Ibrahimović scored four goals in helping Sweden beat England in an international football friendly hours before this Test began but while Swann matched the Swede with a quadruple strike, it is less likely that Swann's effort will prove to be a match-winning one.

Pujara has been a man to watch for many years. As far back as 2004, he was scoring runs at junior level and he has carried on making big scores through junior cricket, domestic cricket and now international cricket. His was a supreme innings today. Not many outscore Sehwag in a substantial partnership in any format of the game and the way he took on Swann showed just how confident he is in his own technique and judgment.

Although Pujara was largely untroubled - such was his composure - the way the pitch is already taking turn shows just what England are up against. They will be forced to bat for long periods against the twin threat of Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha and batting last on this pitch will be a huge challenge.

While Tendulkar received the biggest reception of the day when he walked out to bat, there was a warm one for Yuvraj Singh, whose comeback from lung cancer has been one of the stories during the build-up to the series. It's been one of the stories of the year. It was great to see him back, although England will be keen to see the back of him early on the second day.

John Pennington

© Cricket World 2012

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