Against odds, itís even on Day 1

For the last week or so, Geoffrey Boycott had smirked out of hoardings all over the city, announcing a school visit to inaugurate seven concrete pitches. In and around the Eden Gardens, meanwhile, speculation about the nature of the wicket for the third India-England Test had reached a fever pitch, so much so that some to wonder if curator Prabir Mukherjee too had sneaked some a concrete mixer into the stadium.

At the end of Day One, with India 273 for seven after winning the toss, both teams seemed pleased enough with the surface the curator had rolled out. Gautam Gambhir said it had had "something for everyone." James Anderson said that the English seamers, for the first time, had had reverse swing to work with. "This pitch is perfect for it," he said. "It's very abrasive." He had swung the new ball as well. "I suppose the early start helps," he said.

Anderson beat Gambhir twice in his second over, getting the ball to dart past both edges. When Virender Sehwag was on strike, England had Kevin Pietersen fielding at an unusually deep gully. Twice, Sehwag streaked airy boundaries wide of this fielder off Anderson's bowling, and once off Steven Finn. A more conventional gully might have cut off the angle and found himself within catching range.

False start

But this didn't cost England too much. Sehwag flicked Anderson into the leg side, where Samit Patel ran from deep square leg to deep midwicket and scrambled the ball back into play an inch off the ropes. By the time Finn sent in a flat relay throw to the keeper's end, Sehwag had hared halfway to the other end, looking for a third. Gambhir was unmoved.

When Anderson returned to the attack, India had just lost their second wicket. Monty Panesar had bowled Cheteshwar Pujara with a quicker one that went with the arm and perhaps kept a touch low. Sachin Tendulkar was on one.

... contd.

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