Trott shines as Zaheer exits
Jonathan Trott’s unbeaten fifty led a spirited England resurgence in the historic 2,000th Test but an injury to chief destroyer Zaheer Khan was the paramount concern for India when rain brought an early end to proceedings.
Many felt Zaheer would be undercooked coming into the npower series opener at Lord’s considering how little cricket he has played recently.
The left-arm seamer’s riposte to such claims was initially emphatic as he produced a fine exhibition of seam bowling, accounting for both of England’s openers in the process.
The dismissals of recent run-machine Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss were a reward for his ability to out-think batsmen with well-considered plans.
Having dragged the former outside off-stump with a series of out-swingers, Zaheer trapped Cook leg before prior to snaring England’s skipper with a surprise bouncer.
But, much to the dismay of the Indian supporters, their key bowler was forced off the field during his third spell after appearing to pull a hamstring.
That injury could well end his participation in this encounter - and indeed the series - which, if it proves the case, would be a monumental blow for the tourists.
His absence, though, should not detract from an excellent England recovery, in which Trott and Kevin Pietersen battled through tricky conditions.
The latter looked surprisingly circumspect and was clearly struggling, while the former was more assured despite having enjoying a couple of fortunate moments.
The contrast seemed to work with Pietersen reaching 22, while Trott was unbeaten on 58 as England moved on to 127 for two by the time bad light forced a break in the 50th over.
After rain delayed the start by half an hour, India threatened immediately this morning as Zaheer found some lateral movement from his first delivery.
But that paled in comparison to the prodigious swing Praveen Kumar was providing at the other end, beating Cook with his opening two deliveries.
England’s openers, though, were playing with the kind of patience the situation required, illustrated by them taking 3.1 overs to register their first run.
That came courtesy of Cook’s open blade, with the left-hander guiding the ball to third man for four.
Despite Cook and Strauss playing with relative assurance, there was a fright as the latter narrowly avoided being run out.
Having been sent back by Cook attempting an ill-judged run, the skipper looked on with relief as Ishant Sharma missed with three stumps to aim at.
But, with the duo seemingly warming to the challenge, Zaheer claimed the series’ first scalp by trapping Cook plumb in front.
Ishant was introduced into the attack from Nursery End in the 15th over, during which Strauss grabbed his first boundary courtesy of a top-edged cut.
Trott, meanwhile, was also looking confident as he played off his hip with typical authority, although the introduction of Harbhajan Singh, surprisingly bowling from the Nursery End given the famous Lord’s slope is against his stock delivery, nearly signalled his demise for eight.
Playing inside the line, maybe due to the slope, Trott’s edge was located by the off-spinner but the usually-reliable Rahul Dravid was unable to take a difficult one-handed chance at slip.
Ishant was increasingly proving a handful after lunch and Mahendra Singh Dhoni was left rueing his decision to not have a third slip when Trott edged through the cordon for four.
Yet, as England’s resurgence appeared to be gathering momentum, Strauss top-edged a pull to Ishant at fine-leg.
That wicket signalled a change in momentum, with Zaheer looking more menacing as he beat Trott’s edge soon after.
Such change was illustrated by the introverted nature of Pietersen’s play, the right-hander taking 14 balls to get off the mark.
Trott was having no such problems, though, flicking off his hips before cutting equally impressively for quick-fire boundaries.
Pietersen was still struggling for timing, his first two boundaries coming via streaky outside edges.
Seemingly frustrated by the growing alliance, Dhoni soon turned to Zaheer.
The move should have yielded an instant result when the left-arm seamer, bowling round the wicket, found Trott’s edge with a beautiful delivery, only for it to fly between Dhoni and first-slip Dravid to the boundary, taking Trott to 36.
Clearly enjoying the challenge, England’s number three responded with a lovely pull for four before the left-arm seamer was soon forced to leave the field.
His absence will undoubtedly have provided a surge of confidence for the hosts, something that was evident as Trott brought up his half-century with a single following a beautiful cover-driven four off Harbhajan.
The batsmen did not have much time to continue to build momentum, though, as bad light forced the players off the field, with rain arriving soon after.
Following a two-and-a-half hour delay, it appeared there would be a final hour’s play before rain intervened once more to signal the close.