First step to redemption, India go 1-0 up


Having smacked the winning boundary down the ground, Virat Kohli walked over to bump gloves with Cheteshwar Pujara. Neither batsman was part of India's Test squad on their tour of England last year, but both were aware of the shadow that series had cast over this one.

India had lost all four Tests by massive margins, as well as their number one rank in the longest format. However much the team may have spoken of taking the return series a session at a time, and not looking too far ahead, they would have thought, from time to time, about reversing that scoreline.

For three days at Motera, everything went India's way. Sehwag got a century after two years. Pujara hit a double, and seemed to be slipping quickly into the shoes of Rahul Dravid, India's only successful batsman in England last year. Yuvraj returned to Test cricket with a fine half-century. The spinners confounded England's batsmen, and left them following on, 330 behind.

Day four, therefore, was a reminder — to the players, if they needed any reminding, and to fans — that winning a Test match, never mind winning a series, never mind 4-0, would call for a lot of hard work. The pitch slowed down, the spinners tired. Alastair Cook and Matt Prior played wonderfully to ensure India would bat again, and instill hope among teammates that England could yet save the game.

But that wasn't to be. In the ninth over of the fifth morning, Pragyan Ojha dropped it slightly short of good length, the ball stopped on Prior, and he spooned it back to Ojha.

India had waited more than 60 overs for that wicket; the next one came in less than four overs. Ojha got one to stay a little low and, Cook, who had batted calmly, authoritatively, for a magnificent 176, lost his stumps.

... contd.

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