A dashing century from Virender Sehwag and a composed unbeaten half-century from Cheteshwar Pujara handed India the initiative on day one of the opening Test against England in Ahmedabad.
They closed on 323 for four with Pujara unbeaten on 98 after Graeme Swann took all four wickets to fall, England fighting back after India dominated the start of the day.
Sehwag hit 117 in as many balls, Gautam Gambhir made 45 although Sachin Tendulkar (13) and Virat Kohli (19) fell cheaply to give England hope.
Yuvraj Singh made his return to Test cricket following a long illness-induced absence and was unbeaten on 24 at stumps, while Swann returned four for 85 by bowling three of his victims and having Tendulkar caught in the deep.
Latest bet365 match odds: India 4/7, Draw 7/4, England 14/1
Openers Sehwag and Gambhir shrugged off any concerns regarding their recent lack of runs, and came out all guns blazing. The former, especially, was his usual self having knocked himself back into form with a timely Ranji hundred in the build-up to this Test match.
In the first session of the day, they didn't give the English even a whiff as they stroked away to a 100-run partnership in only 19.1 overs. At lunch, they were placed unbeaten at 120 runs, as the English bowlers found it hard to keep the runs down.
If the first session belonged to India, then the visitors struck right back in the second one. And leading the charge for them was off-spinner Swann. In the 30th over of the day, he castled Gambhir as the left-handed batsman rocked back to cut the ball away. It was not the best shot selection but he should have taken into account the poor bounce in the pitch. He scored 45 runs off 111 balls, including four fours.
Sehwag was then joined by Pujara and the duo put on 90 runs for the second wicket. In this time, Sehwag completed his 23rd Test hundred, but the gap from his last century stood at a huge two years. He had last scored a Test hundred at this very ground in November 2010, against New Zealand.
His landmark came about in the 40th over of the day, as he smacked Swann for four over the infield to reach three-figures. Shortly afterwards, when on 117, he tried one shot too many and was bowled. India lost their second wicket for 224 runs in the 51st over.
Tendulkar came to bat greeted by a loud reception, and he started off well, as England’s ploy of bowling James Anderson to him didn't work out. He struck two fours, the second a brilliant sweep over midwicket. But Swann had his revenge when Tendulkar played early, lofting the ball to deep midwicket, as India took tea at 250 for three.
Kohli(19) was the next man in, but he couldn’t perform up to the high marker he has set himself this year. Along with Pujara he added only 33 runs for the fourth wicket, before Swann castled him with a peach of a delivery. Later, the spinner admitted that wicket was down to a little luck as the ball had turned soft and was changed shortly afterwards.
Still, it disrupted India’s flow as Yuvraj Singh came out to bat. Meanwhile, Pujara completed his half century in the 49th over, his 51 runs coming off only 67 balls. He was playing Swann with relative ease but slowed down towards the end of the day as India began losing wickets.
On his return to Test cricket, Yuvraj received a great welcome and he did well enough to not succumb to immense pressure applied by Swann, who was the stand-out bowler for England on the day with four for 85 from 32 overs. No other bowler impressed as much, maybe James Anderson did a touch, but he was wicketless for 66 runs in 17 overs.
Stuart Broad was taken for more than four an over, while Tim Bresnan gave away 56 runs in his ten. Samit Patel bowled 14 overs for 0-39. The day belonged to India only because of Sehwag’s whirlwind century and Pujara’s patience towards the end. The latter finished unbeaten on 98 while Yuvraj was 28 not out at the other end.
The pitch is showing ample signs of turn, with rough marks quite visible at the end of the first day and shot making is proving a little difficult.
Select quotes from the first day:
Virender Sehwag, on his century: "I did not do anything different, just calmed down in the first ten overs. Last night I saw a lot of videos where I got out against the new ball. So I thought, if I can play out ten overs, I will score a century and I did."
On whether India had already won with 320-plus runs on the board and pitch taking spin, Sehwag said: "Our bowlers will tell you tomorrow how helpful the pitch it. Hopefully we will only bowl after tea. But we haven’t won yet, at all, because England is not Bangladesh!"
Graeme Swann, on whether his wickets mean a tough task ahead of English batsmen: "That is a very good question. I am sure they will be happy with how the pitch is behaving. I certainly am, it’s a good first day pitch. I got a couple of lucky breaks, but having bowled 30-plus overs, I will gladly take them."
On whether England were satisfied with their first-day performance, he said: "Obviously it is very difficult to bowl first on such a pitch. There was absolutely nothing in it for the fast bowlers. Ideal scenario would have been India at six down, but we will accept what we have achieved today, that’s four wickets."
© Cricket World 2012
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