Day one: India 323, Swann 4


Virat Kohli looked back at a disorderly set of stumps, and looked down at the pitch. Moments ago, an off break from Graeme Swann had spun sharply off that strip of turf and fizzed into the gap between Kohli's bat and front pad. Swann punched the air, celebrating his fourth wicket of the day. India were 283 for four.

In the previous over, Kohli had kept out a ball from Samit Patel that scooted low and almost parallel to the Motera pitch. It was Patel's ninth over of the day. The left-arm spinner would bowl five more and finish the day with figures of 14-2-39-0. A decent enough display from someone picked to bat at number six and chip in usefully with the ball. But right through his spell, TV cameras had been trained on a bearded, turbaned form in the England dressing room.

Six years ago, Monty Panesar had made his Test debut in the first Test of an India tour. That match included two other English debutants. One was Alastair Cook, who was now, for the first time, England's full-time Test captain. The other was Ian Blackwell.

In that 2006 Nagpur Test, Blackwell, batting at number eight, was bowled by Irfan Pathan for 4 in England's first innings and didn't get to bat in their second. Over their two innings, India batted for 215.1 overs. Of these, Blackwell bowled 19, conceded 71 runs and went wicketless. He never played Test cricket again.

Patel, like Blackwell, is a useful all-rounder who bowls left-arm spin and has faced issues with the England team management over his tendency to portliness. Patel's first class batting average (39.53) is eerily similar to Blackwell's (39.57) but his ODI batting stats are far superior. He carries superb form into the Test from the warm-up games, and might yet make a crucial difference at number six.

... contd.

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