Super Swann limits India's control
Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara compiled contrasting innings of substance, but the outstanding Graeme Swann prevented India from taking full advantage of winning the toss in the first Test with England at Ahmedabad.
The hosts ended the opening day of the series on 323 for four, with Sehwag and Pujara having struck 117 and 98 not out respectively on a remarkably placid surface offering next to nothing in the way of bounce or lateral movement.
Each of England’s breakthroughs came courtesy of Swann, who clean bowled three batsmen and represented a constant threat as he surpassed the great Jim Laker as his country’s most prolific Test off-spinner.
Figures of 4-85 from 32 overs did not do full justice to his performance, which was all the more impressive after England had failed to make a breakthrough in an opening session dominated by Sehwag’s flashing blade.
If the opener initially stole the show, striking 15 fours and a six during a run-a-ball innings that represented his first five-day ton in two years, it was Pujara who offered a more rounded exhibition of how to prosper in sub-continental conditions.
India’s latest Test number three has been likened to his decorated predecessor, Rahul Dravid, and it was not difficult to see why as, mixing a solid defence with an impressive array of strokes, he accumulated his runs with composure.
England did not help themselves in the field. Sehwag, who scored the bulk of his boundaries in the arc between cover and third man, survived a leg-side chance to wicketkeeper Matt Prior on 80, while Pujara was fortunate to see a leading edge loop over James Anderson early in his innings. Had the fielder not initially dashed in from mid-on, he would have been presented with a simple opportunity.
Swann ensured two other mistakes were not so costly, bowling Gautam Gambhir for 45 moments after Prior had missed out on a stumping and also sneaking one between the bat and pad of Virat Kohli, who was dropped by Jonathan Trott at slip on four but only mustered a further 15 runs.
Gambhir’s dismissal ended an opening stand of 134 that spanned less than 30 overs and India had moved to 224 by the time Sehwag was bowled on the sweep.
Sachin Tendulkar became Swann’s third scalp shortly before tea when he picked out Samit Patel in the deep to fall for 13.
That prompted Pujara to go into his shell, the previously fluent 24-year-old seemingly aware of the importance of a healthy first-innings total on a pitch that is expected to break up significantly on days four and five.
Yuvraj Singh was called upon to bat following Kohli's departure. The all-rounder, making a first Test appearance in 12 months following his recovery from a rare form of lung cancer, contributed an unbeaten 24.
Live Text Commentary
11:02am - STUMPS - Ind 323/4; Pujara 98, Yuvraj 24 - An edge down to third man takes Pujara to 94. He finishes the day with four more to his name, having cracked the ultimate delivery through the covers in confident fashion. Definitely India’s day thanks to Sehwag and Pujara, but Swann’s four-wicket haul has kept England in the hunt. They will be seeking a couple of early strikes tomorrow.
10:57am - Broad concedes a boundary in his final over of the day as Yuvraj caresses a drive to the left of mid-off. One more to come and it will be Anderson who bowls it.
10:49am - Well, this ball certainly seems to be doing a little more than the first. Broad is able to find shape into the left-handed Yuvraj and away from Pujara, who plays and misses outside off stump.
10:44am - There is a lengthy delay as the groundstaff repair an area of the pitch where the bowlers have been landing. England then take the new ball and hand it to Broad.
10:33am - Pujara has been playing for the close for some time now, it would seem. He has 88 to his name and does not seem in any hurry to reach a century before stumps. Just 53 runs have come in this session thus far.
10:26am - Patel drops short and is thumped to the cover boundary by Yuvraj, who then advances and comes close to picking out short midwicket. Still eight overs remaining in the day and the tourists are persisting with the old ball.
10:18am - Yuvraj Singh survives back-to-back lbw appeals from Swann, the second coming after the left-hander had offered no shot outside off stump. With Swann excelling, I imagine England will hang fire on taking the new ball.
10:09am - WICKET! Kohli b Swann 19; Ind 283/4 - Yet again it is Swann who pegs India back - he really has been sensational today. Kohli pushes forward in defence, but is beaten by turn and bounce to be bowled.
10:01am - A rare loose delivery from Swann is punished; Kohli has no trouble in driving a full-toss back past the bowler for four. England would dearly love at least one more wicket before stumps and their off-spinner, who has now bowled 27 overs across two spells, remains the chief threat.
9:53am - Spin at both ends now, as Samit Patel operates in tandem with Swann. The left-armer thinks he has Pujara lbw, but that looked to be sliding down. I wonder whether Alastair Cook will take the new ball when it becomes available in eight overs time. The first cherry certainly didn’t do much this morning.
9:47am - The pressure that England were building has dissipated somewhat following that drop from Trott. Joe Root is currently on the field as a substitute, although I’m not sure who has gone off.
9:33am - DROPPED CHANCE - Hang on, what’s happened here? Kohli edges Swann to slip, where Jonathan Trott initially spills the chance. A replay is then called for to see if the fielder grasped the ball cleanly at the second attempt, but I’m not really sure why. That certainly bounced and Kohli survives.
9:30am - After another maiden from Swann, Stuart Broad replaces Anderson. Kohli is finally away, and in some style too with an effortless straight-driven four.
9:21am - This is good from England, who are applying the squeeze and seeking to coax an error from India’s two youngest batsmen. We have seen just three runs in six overs since tea, all to Cheteshwar Pujara.
9:11am - Graeme Swann starts the session with a maiden and James Anderson follows suit, with one delivery swinging back in sharply to provide an examination of Kohli’s defensive technique. The rising star of Indian cricket has still to get off the mark.
9:03am - This next hour could be very important. India will be targeting at least 500 after winning the toss on such a good deck, so they will want Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli to stick around. England, of course, will be desperate to see the back of both.
8:44am - TEA - Ind 250/3; Pujara 68, Kohli 0 - New batsman Virat Kohli plays out a maiden from Anderson and that will be tea. Huge credit has to go to Swann for his efforts in that session. A couple of quick wickets in the evening would make things very interesting.
8:37am - WICKET! Tendulkar c Patel b Swann 13; Ind 250/3 - A huge morale boost for England at the end of the session! Tendulkar chips Swann over the leg-side infield for four, but then holes out to Patel in the deep, sparking stunned silence at the Sardar Patel Stadium.
8:35am - It may be Sehwag who stole the show this morning, but Pujara has batted beautifully since arriving at the crease shortly after lunch. Aside from an early leading edge off Bresnan, I am struggling to recall a false shot from the composed 24-year-old, who crashes one through the covers to move to 68.
8:28am - Tendulkar punches Anderson through the covers for his first four. That shot was as classy as you might expect from a man boasting over 15,000 Test runs.
8:13am - WICKET! Sehwag b Swann 117; Ind 224/2 - Swann strikes again and it is the big wicket! Sehwag looks to sweep a flighted delivery, but is bowled as the ball turns in from off stump. The end of a fine innings and here comes Sachin Tendulkar to a standing ovation.
8:06am - FIFTY! Pujara (67b 6x4 0x6) - There is Pujara’s half-century, brought up with the minimum of fuss. He soon picks up a seventh four when Broad drifts on to leg stump.
8:02am - Believe it or not, but Pujara is actually looking more fluent than his partner just now. When Samit Patel drops short, the number three responds with a confident pull that takes him to within three of 50.
7:53am - England made things happen at the start of this session, but the batsmen are now firmly on top once again, with the fourth fifty of the innings coming from 59 balls.
7:42am - This may not be the best time to mention that Mr Sehwag boasts two Test triple-hundreds. He will certainly be eyeing another huge score on this track. Pujara is settling in nicely and collects two leg-side fours in a Bresnan over yielding 11. India are 190 for one as the players stop for a drink.
7:26am - CENTURY! Sehwag (90b 15x4 1x6) - Sehwag brings up his century in typically aggressive fashion, swinging Swann high over mid-on for his 15th four. Not a bad start to the series for a player whose recent Test form has been patchy at best.
7:24am - Ooh...that was close! Pujara gets a leading edge facing Tim Bresnan, but the ball loops over Anderson, with the fielder having initially hurried forward from mid-on. In Bresnan’s next over, Sehwag dabs one into the off side to reach 99.
7:13am - Just a hint of reverse-swing for Anderson, which will encourage England. Pujara then picks up his first boundary with a delightful cut off Swann.
7:05am - The irrepressible Sehwag moves into the nineties with another off-side four. He really is one hell of a batsman.
6:54am - Cheteshwar Pujara is the new batsman and can be expected to play the anchor role as Sehwag motors away at the other end. That really was an excellent over from Swann, who has now moved level with the great Jim Laker on 193 Test wickets.
6:48am - WICKET! Gambhir b Swann 45; Ind 134/1 - That will make Matt Prior feel better! England’s wicketkeeper misses a stumping chance when Gambhir dances down the track, but that soon proves irrelevant as Swann gets one to slide on and bowl the left-hander. A much-needed wicket for the tourists!
6:44am - DROPPED CHANCE - Virender Sehwag tickles James Anderson down the leg side, but a diving Matt Prior cannot hold on to a difficult chance. That would have been a big breakthrough and England’s misery is compounded by two fours later in the over.
6:40am - My energy levels have been topped up by some caffeine and a (large) handful of jaffa cakes. Let’s see if England can gather some momentum under the afternoon sun in Ahmedabad. I do hope so.
6:01am - LUNCH - India 120/0; Sehwag 79, Gambhir 37 - Samit Patel is welcomed into the attack by Sehwag with a swipe over midwicket for four. A quiet over from Swann then takes us to lunch and it has certainly been India’s morning. I'm off to grab a cup of coffee, but I'll be back to talk you through the afternoon session.
5:55am - Swann has appeared England’s most likely wicket-taker, but the tourists are still searching a first breakthrough as the lunch interval approaches.
5:45am - CENTURY PARTNERSHIP - It is fair to say Mahendra Singh Dhoni could not have asked for a better morning. India’s first-wicket pair have now extended their partnership into three figures ... and in good time too. A savage cut from Sehwag sums up the day so far.
5:30am - Goodness me! After taking two more fours off Bresnan, Sehwag thumps the bowler high over long-on for six. Things are looking rather ominous, I’m afraid to say.
5:24am - FIFTY! Sehwag (45b 8x4 0x6) - The first milestone of the day arrives as Sehwag brings up his half-century. The 34-year-old has looked in excellent touch this morning, picking up runs almost at will through the off side.
5:20am - Gambhir looks to get after Swann but almost offers up a return catch. A mis-hit drive just loops over the bowler’s head. Sehwag then guides another Bresnan delivery down to third man for four before beating the fielder at cover. He is cruising at present.
5:13am - Graeme Swann is into the attack and finds a hint of turn and bounce to discomfort Gambhir in his first over. Perhaps the biggest worry for England is that India have rattled along at more than four an over without taking any great risks. Even Sehwag has been somewhat reserved, yet he already has six fours and is scoring at a run a ball.
5:01am - Sehwag opens the face again to collect four more, this time from Bresnan. A glorious cover-drive then follows off Broad before Gambhir pulls a Bresnan long-hop to the rope. England are in need of a lift as drinks are taken.
4:48am - Tim Bresnan replaces Anderson and initially keeps things tight. I don’t think it will be too long until we see spin. Sehwag and Gambhir are looking rather comfortable just now, with the latter having just clipped a half-volley from Broad through square-leg. India are 42 without loss after 10 overs.
4:39am - You can’t offer width to Sehwag. He helps himself to three off-side fours in Anderson’s fourth over. Broad’s next set of six ends with Gambhir backing away at the last minute and the stumps being dismantled by a full and straight delivery. Sadly for England, that’s a dead-ball.
4:27am - I wondered how long it would be until old Viru teed off. The flamboyant opener aims a big heave at Broad, but connects only with fresh air as the ball whizzes past off stump. Anderson then strays down leg and is flicked to the fine-leg rope by Sehwag. There really has not been much help for the bowlers so far.
4:15am - Stuart Broad shares the new ball and is only denied an opening maiden when Sehwag punches the final ball of the over past point for two. Gambhir then inside-edges James Anderson past the stumps to pick up a fortuitous first four.
4:05am - Gautam Gambhir nudges the first delivery of the match into the leg side for a single and Virender Sehwag is also off the mark instantly with a defensive push to cover. There is not a blade of grass on the pitch - England’s bowlers may feel as though they are going about their business on the M1 today...
4am - Here we go then. Sehwag and Gambhir are out in the middle and James Anderson has a new ball in his hand. The series starts now!
3:50am - So, England’s task has become that little bit tougher. It might not be much fun batting last on this track. That said, a couple of early wickets this morning would put India under big pressure. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are proven performers, but it has been some time since either man showed their best form in the Test arena.
3:40am - Here are the two teams in full.
England: Alastair Cook (captain), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Samit Patel, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson.
India: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha.
3:35am - INDIA WIN THE TOSS AND BAT - Alastair Cook calls incorrectly and India will make first use of this pitch. Stuart Broad is fit to take his place in England’s side, while Tim Bresnan is also included. No surprises in the India line-up and I must say it is wonderful to see Yuvraj Singh making his return to Test cricket following his recovery from cancer.
3:25am - Before the teams are announced, there's just enough time for me to point you in the direction of the ECB's official twitter feed, which will be providing score updates and links to various other bits and bobs for the duration of the series. You can also follow England Cricket on Facebook if you're into that sort of thing.
3:20am- As I'm sure you're aware by now, England have opted not to risk Steven Finn this week after the giant paceman suffered a thigh strain at the start of the tour. I'll bring you full team news shortly when the toss takes place out in the middle, but we already know that Nick Compton will make his debut. The Somerset batsman has been presented with his maiden Test cap by Graham Gooch.
3:15am - I would be amazed if the captain winning the toss does not elect to bat. The relaid pitch at the Sardar Patel Stadium is expected to break up significantly as the match wears on, so first-innings runs are likely to be key.
3:05am - Almost 28 years have passed since an England side last won a Test series in India. It would therefore be a wonderful achievement if Cook, in his first mission as permanent five-day captain, could marshal his troops to victory over the next few weeks.
3am - Good morning...and a particularly warm welcome to those of you joining us from the UK in the middle of the night! I am the ECB's website editor, Chris Devine, and for the next eight to nine hours, I'll be talking you through events from Ahmedabad on the opening day of the four-Test rubber between India and England. Let's hope Alastair Cook and Co can get off to a strong start.