1st Day, 1st Test, Motera, Ahmedabad, India vs England

Tuk-tuking to the ground, two signs resonated as we chugged along the Ahmedabad backstreets. Firstly a melancholic daub on a decaying wall, The Youth Alliance vs Corruption, then further on a tired, more official exhibit marking the headquarters of The Gujurati Board of Pollution Control.
I wondered who had the more insurmountable task ahead of them.
Then I saw Virender Sehwag help give his team a massive lead at lunch on the first day and a more intimidating challenge than the two statements from my journey earlier confronted England’s new skipper Alastair Cook.
Sehwag’s innings, a mighty run a ball 117, was an innings typical of the man. It gives me great pleasure to write that because it’s been too long since we saw an innings of bullying brilliance from him. Sadly for England’s bowlers they were on the receiving end of this potentially match defining knock. Yet they did not help themselves. The bowling was too short, too wide. The fielding indolent. If ever a side need a route back into winning ways it is the home team and first Sehwag, then Cheteshwar Pujara benefitted from England’s malaise.
If Sehwag was the shot gun wielding hit man then Pujara proved to be India’s silent assassin. He stealthily compiled his runs, turning England’s attack over and delighting the locals with some delightful stroke play. The heir apparent to the recently retired Dravid, the young Gujurati looks to have the temperament and touch to be The Wall’s long term replacement, he ended the day two short of what promises to be an special century on his return to Test cricket.
Also making his return to the longer format of the game was Yuvraj Singh, the cheers that greeted his arrival eclipsed those even of Sachin Tendulkar, for a change. This popular cricketer finished on 24 and his every run was enthusiastically heralded by the swelling crowd. Singh’s recovery from cancer is one of the game’s more uplifting stories and surely no one could begrudge him a century on comeback….
Doing his best to stop him, and someone sadly and pertinently all too familiar with the workings of a hospital recently is Graeme Swann. Swann’s efforts with the ball was the only real high point for England and but for some sluggish catching from Jonathan Trott, who’s ill considered appeal compounded his error, the Notts bowler would have ended the first day with five wickets. Swann will have to contend himself with the title of being his country’s leading off spinner, his haul today taking him past Jim Laker’s tally of 193, for now.
England ended the day better than they started it, credit to Cook for finding some much needed fight among his team, and will look to the new ball and the fired-up Swann as a way of getting back into the match. Something they’ll need to do quickly if they are to get back in this match and ahead in the series. Otherwise, there’s a job going sorting out pollution or corruption in Gujurat to anyone who feels brave enough.

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