For a true cricketer, all the glamor and glitterati of One-Day-Internationals and T20 cricket pale into insignificance, when contrasted with test cricket. From the moment he takes the game as a career option, the cricketer begins dreaming of his debut in a test match for his country. Though shorter versions of cricket have assumed prominence for the last decade or so, such fixtures are designed for spectator thrills and sponsors’ returns on their investments. With the size of Indian sub-continent accounting for nearly half the world population and craze for cricket in Asia showing no let-up, commercial houses look at the scenario from the mass-market angle. The decline in the popularity of test cricket is directly attributable to the business participation in cricket, where ODIs and T20s have a higher commercial yield in shorter time. But ask Stuart Binny, who would tell you the truth from a cricketer’s viewpoint. His joy would have known no bounds after earning the India test cap yesterday. In the same way, Ravichndran Ashwin must be disappointed at having been excluded from the squad for the first test, which began in Nottingham yesterday. India also left out Rohit Sharma and Zaheer Khan was replaced by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. England also made a change by including Ben Stokes in place of Chris Jordon. The first day’s play belonged to India, who finished with 259/4 after the regulatory 90 overs.
After winning the toss MS Dhoni opted to bat first. It proved to be a good decision as ground conditions and the weather had nothing to offer to the bowlers on day 1. Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay opened for India and moved patiently until Dhawan was claimed by James Anderson in a neat change of strategy in the seventh over of the innings. Anderson tested Dhawan on his pads, around leg and middle for five balls and brought up a beauty with his sixth, which deviated just a shade. Dhawan got the slightest of touches and presented a gift-wrapped 50th test wicket to James Anderson with Matt Prior helping the bowler with a superb one-handed diving catch in front of the first slip.
Cheteshwar Pujara joined Vijay and the two them played patiently to add 73 for the second wicket. Anderson picked up his second wicket immediately after lunch, when he forced Pujara to drive tentatively on the leg side only to see Ian Bell bring off an unbelievable one-handed catch, diving full length on his right. India got another jolt, when the new batsman Virat Kohli fell to Stuart Broad. After a good initial build-up, Kohli’s wicket was a big disappointment for India. Ajinkya Rahane was the new man to join Murali Vijay, who had kept the other end with some solidity. Rahane took 10 balls before he began with a boundary off Broad and scored another off Anderson in the 40th over. Those two were the only scoring strokes from his bat in his 35 ball stay at the crease until he cracked another boundary against Broad in the 44th over with the India total reading 124/3. But Rahane supported Vijay very well, before he fell as India’s fourth wicket at 178 for 32 scored off 81 balls with 4 fours. Dhoni walked in to join Murali Vijay at this stage and the two of them played sensibly, having already lost four top-order batsmen. They also ensured that India did not lose any more wickets on the first day, as they reached 259/4, when stumps were drawn.
The first day belonged to Murali Vijay, who was 93 not out when he lost Rahane. But with Dhoni giving him confidence, he slowly moved to his first century out of the Indian sub-continent and his fourth overall. Some of his strokes, early in the evening were edged shots but his luck held. The century came in the 68th over with a flick to square leg off Anderson with India’s score at 190/4. The two batsmen patiently carried through the remaining part of the day without any needless adventure. 259/4 cannot be considered as a great first-day total but if the remaining batsmen can chip in with some useful scores on the second day, England could be driven to a pressure situation.