Shiny side, rough side


In the days that remain till the Wankhede Test, Alastair Cook and Andy Flower will, no doubt, re-examine their initial reasons for leaving out Monty Panesar and playing three seamers at Motera. They might be tempted to go with popular sentiment and play Panesar in the second Test, but their choice will be complicated by the Mumbai wicket, which by and large offers enough carry to enthuse seam bowlers.

The last time England played there, in 2006, they had no such quandary. In India's first innings, their three seamers took seven wickets. In the second, they took six, while their second specialist spinner took four for 14 as India collapsed to a 212-run defeat. It helped, of course, that they could call on Andrew Flintoff, who scored exactly 50 in the first innings, exactly 50 in the second, and took four wickets in the match.

Six years on, Flintoff prepares for his debut as a professional boxer. Without a genuine seam-bowling all-rounder at number six or seven — it's hard to see Tim Bresnan or Stuart Broad batting that far up the order — England are forced to compromise with balance, and make difficult choices.

While their move to go with three seamers at Motera looks ill-advised in hindsight, England had enough reason to make that choice. Their seamers had bowled well on their recent tours of the UAE and Sri Lanka, and they expected reverse swing to play a significant role. Unfortunately for them, while their pace trio struggled to find any reverse, Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav bent the ball enough to take seven wickets between them.

The usual idea behind playing three seamers is that it allows a captain to rotate them and keep them reasonably fresh, even in trying conditions. But in the first innings, Cook seemed to have a different idea. Tim Bresnan only bowled 19 overs, less than 12 per cent of the 160 that the Indian batsmen spent in the middle. Samit Patel, in contrast, bowled 31.

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