England vs India, First Test Match Report

By Angus Bromhead

Monday morning’s long snaking queues through St John’s Wood of the like only seen at film premiers shows that cricket is not a dying sport. The atmosphere at the start of the 5th and final day was electric, the game in the balance as the crowds surged into Lord’s. A stubborn England had the final day to take India’s remaining nine wickets. Tens of thousands of office workers surreptitiously listened to Test Mach Special or attempted to catch glimpses of the score. The long anticipated first Test in this series has not disappointed. Both teams fighting for dominance displayed flashes of brilliance in a game which was full of surprises.

England’s campaign on a blustery Thursday started a little falteringly with the loss of skipper Andrew Strauss and opening batsman Alastair Cook cheaply. It was left to Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott to toil away with the bat against a lacklustre bowling attack. Despite initially lacking fluency, KP looked to regain his confidence and scored a magnificent and unbeaten double century supported by Prior. By the end of day two India’s forlorn and depleted bowlers could do little to stem the run rate from an indomitable England who with the skillful strokes of KP surged to a lofty 474 for 8.

A tired India was left to survive a tricky final 40 minutes of play and the daunting task of facing an aggressive bowling attack. It is worth mentioning at this point that India’s masterful Sachin Tendulkar, arguably the world’s greatest batsman, is on the cusp of getting his one hundredth international century. This in the strange and geeky world of cricket statistics is an incredible feat from a cricketer who plays a crucial role in the development of sports in the poorest parts of India. Sadly, fast-forwarding a few days this Test was not to be Tendulkar’s moment.

Day three saw a resolute England take control in the field using the cool efficiency of their seam bowlers. Stuart Broad, in particular, caused the Indian line up immense difficulty. Broad’s ability to bombard the opposition with a consistently dangerous line, length and swing gave him impressive figures of 4 wickets for 37 runs, no mean feat for a player whose place in team was questioned. Only Rahul Dravid prevailed in a spirited attempt to resuscitate the Indian batting line up. He scored a well-deserved unbeaten 103. With the exception of a few fielding howlers England finished the day well in control with a substantial lead to build on and time to bowl India out. They had proved equally effective and ruthless with bat and ball. What could go wrong?

Strauss could not have wished to be in better position as he strode into the middle at Lord’s. The sun was shining; a victory seemed inevitable with a comfortable lead of 193 runs. This should be easy. Cricket rarely goes to plan and a batting collapse was inevitable at some point. Some imaginative and persistent bowling from India left the English top order in tatters losing 6 rapid wickets for a mere 107 runs. Ishant Sharma showed what a valuable player he is taking 4 of these with excellent bowling.

Special mention needs to go to saviour Matt Prior, the English wicket keeper, who came in to bat with England in disarray on 62 for 5. He took it upon himself to partner with Stuart Broad and rekindle the innings. A self-assured performance, Prior was as attacking as he was skillful, scoring quickly to ensure that England was able to declare late in the day with a clear lead. This left Strauss and his bowlers enough time to secure a victory. Both Prior and Broad were playing for the team and a win, looking for quick snappy singles.

Whilst India might have started their 2nd innings with an intimidating run chase and facing a buoyant England, the game was still open. English victory was not yet a certainty. Opener Makund was bowled early by Broad. The final result, however, would come down to a nail-biting final day.

Expectant fans, both Indian and English, had been waiting since 2am to ensure they had a seat. Lord’s was completely packed for the thrilling conclusion to this contest. England secured the perfect start to the 5th day, taking three quick wickets followed by the dangerous Tendulkar after lunch. The English seamers ripped through the batsmen’s defences, none of whom managed to find much form. A determined stand from Dhoni and Raina briefly raised hopes of an Indian resurgence. India batted through to tea with 5 remaining wickets intact, a draw seemed a real possibility.

The dogged determination of England’s bowlers was clear; both players soon became trapped by the seamers and edged the ball for easy catches. Jimmy Anderson received honours in taking 5 wickets for a mere 65 runs. The final wickets fell all too easily as defeat for the Indian team became a grim reality. Stuart Broad was able to take the final wickets to leave England victorious by an impressive 196 runs. India, currently ranked first in the world, was beaten by a team who have shined in all forms of the game.

An incredible start to the series will give England the advantage in the remaining two matches, yet India will have more to prove. This weekend’s test match has encapsulated the essence of cricket and its popularity was unprecedented since the Ashes in 2005. This bodes well for a sport which often struggles to attract new supporters in Britain.

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