England take opening honours
Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan vindicated Andrew Strauss’ decision to bowl first as England dominated the opening day of the third npower Test at Edgbaston.
Broad and Bresnan took four wickets apiece as India were dismissed for 224 in conditions – a green-tinged pitch and overcast morning – that aided seam bowling.
The tourists’ total would have been considerably lower had it not been for captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s fighting 77.
Dhoni, who struck 10 fours and three sixes, found his side in dire straights at 111 for seven but shared an 84-run stand with Praveen Kumar.
Broad ended Dhoni’s riposte to finish with 4-53 while Bresnan claimed 4-62 and James Anderson struck twice.
Strauss and Alastair Cook then put on an unbroken 84 to confirm the hosts’ continued authority in a series they lead 2-0 with just the Kia Oval Test remaining after this.
England earlier named their expected line-up as they aimed for the victory that would propel them to number one in the Test rankings for the first time.
Batsman Ravi Bopara was restored to the Test side after a two-year absence as a replacement for Jonathan Trott, who suffered a shoulder injury at Trent Bridge.
Bresnan, who shone in Nottingham on his recall, kept his place with fellow seamer Chris Tremlett yesterday ruled out for a second match by a back problem.
India were boosted by the expected return of openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir from injury. They came in for Abinhav Mukund and the injured Yuvraj Singh. Another injury victim, Harbhajan Singh, was replaced by leg-spinner Amit Mishra.
England wore black armbands in memory of former Warwickshire opener and batting coach Neal Abberley, who was Ian Bell’s mentor. Abberley would have been proud of the £32million development at Edgbaston used for an international match for the first time today.
The game began against the backdrop of a second night of trouble in Birmingham, an apparent reminder of which came from a plume of thick smoke rising from several miles behind the City End of the ground.
Sehwag – making his series debut following shoulder surgery – went first ball at the start of the second over, attempting to leave a back-of-a-length Broad delivery. England’s review showed it had brushed his glove en route to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
Sehwag’s departure came amid a flurry of runs for Gambhir, who scored India’s first 23 in quick time. Rahul Dravid, facing the new ball as he did when promoted to open in the last Test, was resolute.
Gambhir, who missed the last Test due to an elbow blow sustained at Lord’s, looked in fine touch. A straight-driven four off Bresnan demonstrated his authority.
Dravid typically took few risks. A single off Broad following an extra-cover-driven boundary heralded the fifty partnership.
Bresnan was rewarded for a probing off-stump line when he forced Gambhir to play on for 38 shortly before Anderson took a regulation catch at third slip off Broad to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar, whose search for a 100th international hundred goes on.
Dravid was beaten on 22 by a Bresnan ball that moved away to clip his off stump, signalling lunch four deliveries early.
Bright sun appeared to make batting easier after the interval, VVS Laxman striking two Bresnan half-volleys for four in one over.
However, Suresh Raina immediately played round a similar delivery from Anderson to be bowled and Laxman, on 30, soon pulled Bresnan to Broad at deep backward square-leg. Mishra followed, feathering an edge to Prior.
Dhoni refused to become part of the procession, symbolised by a straight six off Anderson similar to his World Cup-winning shot.
That prompted Graeme Swann’s introduction but he received similar treatment via Praveen’s one-bounce four, the first of back-to-back boundaries that brought up the fifty partnership from 54 balls.
Not to be outdone, Dhoni smote Bresnan for a maximum over midwicket and he soon had a half-century when he drove Swann for four.
Praveen cleared long-on off Swann but fell for 26 attempting hook Bresnan, England’s review revealing a faint edge to Prior.
Dhoni continued in the same vein after tea, hooking Broad for six. However, his resistance ended with an edged swipe to Strauss at a solitary slip.
Ishant Sharma was last out in unusual fashion soon after as Cook knew little about his catch off Anderson at silly mid-off that he clutched in an arm-pit.
England took 23 balls to get off the mark, via Cook’s single off Sreesanth. The seamer soon came in for punishment courtesy of two Strauss fours. The England captain then took two dours off consecutive Praveen balls.
Cook got in on the act with a pair of fours off Ishant before he and Praveen regained control. Cook clipped the latter for the first four in six overs before Strauss took a couple off Sreesanth, the second bringing up the fifty stand.
Strauss greeted Mishra’s introduction with two more fours and he progressed to 50 via a single off Ishant before he and Cook closed on 52 and 27 respectively.