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India v England first Test analysis – The Top Spin, Lawrence Booth

Spooked England were beaten in their minds in Ahmedabad

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UPDATED:

13:47 GMT, 20 November 2012

England v India – pictures

We are unable to carry live pictures from the First Test in Ahmedabad due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.

The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.

At the end of India’s entirely predictable first-Test win at Ahmedabad, Mahendra Singh Dhoni spoke of the importance of creating in the minds of England’s batsmen a ‘false sense of panic’.

It was a well-judged remark, for it perfectly captured the state of mind that cost England the game when they slipped to 191 in their first innings. And it was wise, while just staying the right side of condescending, which is the best place for any victorious captain to be.

England’s sense of panic on Friday evening and Saturday morning actually felt very real, and it was reflected in their off-field decision making: Jimmy Anderson may have a sterling record as nightwatchman, but he should not have been thrown to the wolves with 20 minutes still left on the clock.

Desperate measure: Anderson (left) was sent in as a nightwatchman

Desperate measure: Anderson (left) was sent in as a nightwatchman

More from Lawrence Booth…

Top spin at the Test: Spun into a whitewash… and the pain might not stop there
19/11/12

The Top Spin: India preparations leave England in a spin, but for Cook's charges the warm-up has barely begun
13/11/12

The Top Spin: Why India are clinging to faith in England's ineptitude against spin
06/11/12

The Top Spin: England's batsmen show they are still struggling to get to grips with spin
24/09/12

The Top Spin: England voyage into the unknown on a wing and a prayer
18/09/12

The Top Spin: Bears, Twitter and textgate… a review of the summer that was
10/09/12

The Top Spin: KP's England future is more dependent on his attitude than he may realise
03/09/12

The Top Spin: Strauss's future uncertain after mid-table mediocrity takes hold at precisely the wrong moment
21/08/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Then, next day, Kevin Pietersen could
have been out to four of the first five balls he faced, all from
Pragyan Ojha – his latest left-arm tormentor. And by dancing down to his
first delivery as if he was Michael Vaughan on the waltz, Ian Bell
betrayed the mental equivalent of two left feet.

England, frankly, were spooked – and
they lost the Test because of it. Yet from 97 for 7, they knuckled down,
scoring 500 runs for their remaining 13 wickets, which was not a
million miles away from India’s first-innings 521 for 8.

The batting of Alastair Cook and Matt
Prior demonstrated what was possible on a pitch that did more in
English minds than it did in reality. Ravi Ashwin, don’t forget, bowled
43 overs in the second innings for a single wicket, which was donated to
him by Graeme Swann’s feckless reverse-swipe 10 minutes before lunch.

And yet it’s not entirely clear how
many of the others take note of these things. After all, before the
collapse, England had spent eight-and-a-half hours watching Cheteshwar
Pujara oscillate pleasantly between second and third gear. The template
for batting at the Sardar Patel Stadium had been staring England in the
face.

There was much talk of lessons
learned earlier in the year when Pietersen’s genius and Swann’s
off-breaks won a Test in Colombo after four straight defeats in the UAE
and at Galle.

But events at Ahmedabad suggest that
people absorb lessons at their own pace. While Cook and Prior scored 356
runs between them, everyone else contributed 203.

Holding the fort: Cook - seen here against South Africa - lacked support

Holding the fort: Cook – seen here against South Africa – lacked support

THE TOP SPIN ON TWITTER

For cricket-related snippets from England's tour of India, go to twitter.com/the_topspin

Nick Compton deserves some praise for
putting on 123 with his captain in the second innings, a mini-triumph
of doggedness that did not deserve to be the precursor of a collapse of 5
for 76. And Samit Patel was twice sawn off by lbw decisions, though he
was lucky to escape in the first innings against Ashwin on four.

The truth, though, is that it’s hard
to be certain that the second-innings grit will have much bearing on the
second Test at Mumbai, especially if Cook falls early.

Just as concerning for England was
the manner in which their seamers were comprehensively outbowled by
India’s. Dhoni kept an admirably straight face when, after the game, he
counselled England to play to their strengths, which translated pretty
obviously as: ‘Please, please, please keep picking them.’

But while England’s trio of seamers –
Anderson, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan – had combined match figures of
72-10-255-1, the Indian duo of Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav teamed up for
an analysis of 72.3-16-166-7.

In other words, two Indians did the
work of three Englishmen, but they did it more accurately and more
incisively. And they did so by bowling a full length: five of their
seven wickets were leg-before. And if a couple of the decisions were
faulty, then the ability to summon up yorkers at will was not.

Out of sorts: England's seamers struggled badly in Ahmedabad

Out of sorts: England's seamers struggled badly in Ahmedabad

England’s seamers gave us an English length with a hint of reverse-swing. No wonder Dhoni craves more of the same.

Cook and Andy Flower must now wonder
how much to oblige him. England’s pre-series plans revolved around
hitting India with the pace and hostility of Steven Finn, who must – by
logical conclusion – play at Mumbai.

Yet the one-spinner policy at
Ahmedabad (sorry Samit) was an undeniable blunder, which brings Monty
Panesar into the equation. Finn and Panesar in the same team would
entail two kinds of boldness: a team containing three No 11s (Anderson
has to make the cut); and the dropping of Broad, the vice-captain.

To have any chance of getting back in
the series England must do more than work out how to bowl at Cheteshwar
Pujara. They must think on their feet. Not dance on them
indiscriminately.

THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS

A country could get a complex

What is it about Virender Sehwag and Bangladesh Nearly three years ago, he upset the locals by declaring on the eve of a Test match in Chittagong that Bangladesh were ‘an ordinary side’ who had no chance of beating India because they ‘can’t take 20 wickets’.

Then, on Thursday evening, after he had treated England’s bowlers as if they were, well, Bangladesh, he said: ‘We have to work hard to take 20 English wickets. They are not Bangladesh.’ Two days later, Bangladesh slipped to 167 all out on the final day of their Test against West Indies in Dhaka, having been set a tantalising 245. Sehwag was unavailable for comment.

Sticking the boot in: Sehwag was once again dismissive of Bangladesh

Sticking the boot in: Sehwag was once again dismissive of Bangladesh

The other side of the coin

Stuart Broad made a serious point on Twitter last night: ‘Media complain about 'mundane' press conferences. Its cause we HAVE to give them, cause if we didn't there would be a storm. #FACT #boring’.

But there’s a serious retort. If the players didn’t give interviews, they would operate in even more of a bubble than they already do. Without the interest people show in cricket – spectators and media – it would be nothing more than a bunch of men or women in futile pursuit of runs and wickets. It’s up to the players to give illuminating answers as much as it is up to the press to ask searching questions.

Pull the other one, MS!

A winning captain generally gets to say what he wants, but was MS Dhoni being entirely ingenuous when he suggested that the pitches for this series should turn from the first ball His logic was that no one complains when pitches seam from the start, but most would agree that a first-morning pitch should help the seamers, before calming down on days two and three, then helping the spinners later on.

Besides, what happens on the first morning of a Test in, say, England or New Zealand, is that any seam movement tends to be exaggerated by swing – which is a product of overhead conditions, not the pitch. When Dhoni says the ball should turn from the word go so that the impact of the toss is taken out of the equation, what he really means is that England should have even less of a cat’s chance in hell than they had in Ahmedabad.

India v England: Ravi Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha open up fresh spin wounds

There's no hiding England's spin scars but ruthless India open up fresh wounds

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UPDATED:

11:36 GMT, 16 November 2012

PICTURE DISPUTE

We are unable to carry live pictures
from the First Test in Ahmedabad due to a dispute between the Board of
Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news
organisations.

The
BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies
Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.

And here we go again. If England are to save this game, they will have to do it the hard way: first avoid the follow-on, which means reaching 322, then survive whatever last-day ordeal is laid before them.

On the evidence of their catastrophic start to their innings this evening, they will do well to get as far as that. Spin bowling in Asia Only the opposition changes. The outcome remains resolutely the same.

As so often when a side is inserted late on the second day after spending far too many overs in the field, they made an inauspicious start when Nick Compton failed to glue bat and pad together as he played forward to Ravi Ashwin.

Tailspin: Jonathan Trott was one of three England batsmen to fall on day two

Tailspin: Jonathan Trott was one of three England batsmen to fall on day two

England then provided an insight into their negative mindset when they sent in Jimmy Anderson as a nightwatchman with as many as 20 minutes of the day to go. He lasted six of them before propping forward fatally to the left-arm spin of Pragyan Ojha.

Enter Jonathan Trott, who had been hoping to put his feet up until the morning. He poked his fourth ball to forward short leg: 30 for 3, and the scars of England’s three trips to Asia this year had been opened in an instant.

India v England – day two:

Click here to read the report on the day's play

And there are still three days to go, which means at least 270 overs in which their faulty selection for this game will continue to come back and haunt them.

Prior to Compton’s dismissal, one ball from Ojha went through the top, spun back wickedly past his forward grope, and apparently summed up the size of their task. They can hardly say they haven’t been warned.

While Cheteshwar Pujara was compiling an unbeaten 206 of enviable unfussiness and composure, England’s preference for Tim Bresnan ahead of Monty Panesar assumed the proportions of an outright gaffe.

Masterclass: Cheteshwar Pujara showed great composure during his double ton

Masterclass: Cheteshwar Pujara showed great composure during his double ton

But it is no good picking on Bresnan, who – remember – would have had Pujara out for just eight had Jimmy Anderson not misjudged the flight of the ball at mid-on shortly after lunch yesterday. He was chosen, did his best, and formed part of a seam-bowling triumvirate which returned collective figures of 70-10-245-1.

Since England’s three spinners – Graeme Swann, Samit Patel and Kevin Pietersen – combined for 90-12-265-7, the numbers told their own story. How India are loving this.

As if to highlight England’s selectorial folly, MS Dhoni threw the new ball to Ashwin, his off-spinner. So what if Umesh Yadav barely gets a bowl in this innings. Cricket is about adapting to different situations as it is about executing your blessed skill-set and playing to your strengths.

India are doing that expertly so far. Beyond Swann’s diligence, it’s not entirely clear what – in these conditions – England’s strengths are.

India v England: Cheteshwar Pujara double hundred piles pressure on Alastair Cook

England in big trouble as Cook's men lose Compton, Anderson AND Trott under spin barrage after Pujara's double ton fires India

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UPDATED:

11:42 GMT, 16 November 2012

PICTURE DISPUTE

We are unable to carry live pictures from the First Test in Ahmedabad due to a dispute between the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and international news organisations.

The BCCI has refused access to Test venues to established picture agencies Getty Images and Action Images and other Indian photographic agencies.

MailOnline consider this action to be a strike against press freedom and supports the action to boycott BCCI imagery.

England made a hapless start in their efforts to save the first Test, despite an eight-and-a-half-hour demonstration from Cheteshwar Pujara of the skills they need to do so.

India's 521 for eight declared owed much to Pujara's tour de force 206 not out, and more than a little too to the adventure of Virender Sehwag with his destructive hundred yesterday.

The upshot on day two at the Sardar Patel Stadium was that new England captain Alastair Cook and debutant Nick Compton's first task, in pursuit of an opening stalemate in this four-match series, was to come through 18 overs unscathed.

The Wall mk II: Cheteshwar Pujara hit a brilliant 206 not out for India

The Wall mk II: Cheteshwar Pujara hit a brilliant 206 not out for India

India v England: First Test
Click here to see a full scorecard
Captain Cook suffers nightmare first day: How the play unfolded on day one

Cook survived. But Compton, nightwatchman
James Anderson and then Jonathan Trott could not stay with him in a
distinctly unpromising stumps total of 41 for three.

England were confronted immediately
with Ravichandran Ashwin's much-hyped variations, and spin at both ends
by the 10th over when slow left-armer Pragyan Ojha joined in.

A big off-break was too much for
Compton, turning between bat and pad to hit leg-stump and give Ashwin
his 50th Test wicket, in record Indian time.

Anderson went bat-pad to Ojha an over later, and then in the next Trott fell likewise to Ashwin.

Pujara had earlier ploughed on remorselessly to a maiden double-hundred at this level in only his sixth Test.

He shared a fifth-wicket stand of 130
with Yuvraj Singh (74), and put on another 66 for the seventh with
Ashwin before England were granted a rest – after 160 overs of hard and
largely unrewarded slog in the sun.

Graeme Swann eventually took his
wicket tally to five, for the 14th time for his country, but his
successes here came at a cost of 144 runs on a lifeless surface offering
only slow and irregular turn.

Leading from the front: England captain Alastair Cook dug in until the close

Leading from the front: England captain Alastair Cook dug in until the close

If there was a consolation for
England, it was that this pitch has yet to show any significant signs of
deterioration – and therefore their prospects of closing out a draw
should remain viable.

During their second consecutive
wicketless morning, Yuvraj passed a poignant comeback half-century – in
his first Test innings since recovering from cancer – and Pujara
completed India's second individual hundred of the match.

Yuvraj reached his 98-ball 50 with a
big hit over midwicket off Swann for his fifth four, to go with a one
straight six also off the off-spinner.

England gave the ball, only four overs old, to Swann rather than seam at each end this morning.

But the closest they came to a
breakthrough before lunch was with a series of lbw appeals, the most
convincing of which was Swann's from only the second ball of the day
when Yuvraj missed a sweep without addition to his overnight 24.

He and Pujara then appeared to target
Swann, taking 15 off one over – including that six from Yuvraj – but
Cook kept his nerve, and the off-spinner continued.

/11/16/article-2233872-141C70B5000005DC-704_468x286.jpg” width=”468″ height=”286″ alt=”Five-fer: Graeme Swann added another Indian scalp to his overnight haul” class=”blkBorder” />

Five-fer: Graeme Swann added another Indian scalp to his overnight haul

Cook employed some unconventional
fielding positions at times, posting a seven-two off-side arrangement –
with no catchers behind the bat – to help Anderson dry up the run-rate
against Pujara.

The stoic No 3 is not a batsman to
respond with a loss of patience, however, and it seemed England's best
hope was to try to out-bore him and hope for a mistake from Yuvraj.

It was not until early afternoon that they had any respite.

Yuvraj clubbed a Samit Patel full-toss
to Swann in the leg-side deep, and then the off-spinner put himself
back in the wickets column too when Mahendra Singh Dhoni deflected an
attempted sweep down on to his stumps.

Pujara remained less co-operative,
still showing no signs of weariness as he negotiated a third successive
full session in an innings which would eventually encompass 389 balls.

It also contained 21 fours, many
classy deflections to leg and a collection driven down the ground –
until England's damage limitation left him little option but to pick off
runs into that packed off-side.

Kevin Pietersen had Ashwin edging a
cut behind, but it was not until Zaheer Khan speared an attempted drive
at Anderson to Trott at backward point that the first wicket at last
fell to pace.

Shortly afterwards, with Pujara's
double-century safely in the book, Dhoni decided it was time for
England's batsmen to be tested.

Brett Lee was in a class of his own – Nasser Hussain

For sheer speed, gentleman Brett was in a class of one

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 13 July 2012

After 322 appearances and 718 wickets, Australia fast bowler Brett Lee has announced his retirement from international cricket at 35. Nasser Hussain, who faced him in two Ashes series, salutes the fastest bowler he ever came up against…

There have been few finer sights in world cricket over the last decade or so than Brett Lee running in at full pelt, preparing to send down another bouncer or yorker and keep the batsman guessing.

Some fast bowlers have been more subtle operators, and many have done more with the ball. But when Brett’s tail was up, he really was something else.

Seriously quick: Brett Lee celebrates taking then England captain Nasser Hussain's wicket for eight runs at the WACA in Perth in November, 2002

Seriously quick: Brett Lee celebrates taking then England captain Nasser Hussain's wicket for eight runs at the WACA in Perth in November, 2002

I remember in particular an evening session at Perth during the 2002-03 Ashes. Brett knew he could let rip for an hour or so, and the Fremantle Doctor — the local breeze — was behind him. Oh, and the Waca was a seriously quick track in those days.

Marcus Trescothick, who used to play fast bowling brilliantly, came off the field and said he had never seen anything like it. Then we sent in poor old Richard Dawson as nightwatchman.

I faced Brett the next day and he hadn’t slowed down. He hit Alex Tudor on the head and he was carried off on a stretcher. It really was fearsome stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever seen quicker.

What an athlete: Lee in action against England in the recent NatWest series

What an athlete: Lee in action against England in the recent NatWest series

Brett by numbers

(International stats, bowling only)

TESTS: 76. Wickets: 310. Best (innings): 5-30. Best (match): 9-171. Av: 30.81.

ODIs: 221. Wickets: 380. Best: 5-22. Av: 23.36. Econ rate: 4.76.

T20s: 25. Wickets: 28. Best: 3-23. Av: 25.50. Econ rate: 7.86.

Five fastest bowlers

Shoaib Akhtar (Pak) — 100mph v New Zealand 2002

Brett Lee (A) — 97.8mph v South Africa 2002

Nantie Hayward (SA) — 95.9mph v India 2001

Jason Gillespie (A) — 95.6mph v South Africa 2002

Waqar Younis (Pak) — 95.1mph v England 1996

Stats from cricinfo.com

Despite that, Brett was not your
archetypal Australian fast bowler. He was a really nice guy, and an
absolute pleasure to play against in a team that contained some fairly
uncompromising cricketers. But he was old-fashioned in that he’d be
quite prepared to give you a dose of short stuff.

He might not have tested your technique as much as other quicks, although he could get it to swing away from the right-hander. But he certainly tested your ticker. If you were scared of being hit by the ball, Brett Lee was not a bloke you wanted to be facing.

The amazing thing is that he lasted so long bowling as fast as he did. But he was a proper athlete — and a gentleman.