Shiny side, rough side

SP
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.

Cook might have reasoned that the wicket was more conducive to spin, but Patel's twirlers caused the Indians no problems, and only highlighted Panesar's absence. Cook could also cite Patel's economy rate of 3.09, compared to Bresnan's 3.84. But Bresnan had run into a rampaging Virender Sehwag — who smashed him for 36 from 29 balls — and wasn't given a chance to redeem himself. Cook took Bresnan out of the attack after the 43rd over, and didn't bring him back for a whopping 69 overs.

The waiting game

Bresnan could have been eased back at some point following Sehwag's dismissal, in the 51st over, but he had to wait till the 112th to get another bowl. He didn't bowl a single delivery to Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli, and the Pujara-Yuvraj partnership had reached exactly 100 when he finally came back on.

By then, James Anderson and Stuart Broad were almost spent. Broad didn't bowl for 48 overs, between the 98th and 146th of the Indian innings, and Anderson took a 44-over break, between the 110th and the 154th.

During England's first innings, MS Dhoni only brought on Umesh Yadav in the 48th over. But he had a logical reason for this. His spinners had already taken six wickets, and he might have wanted to preserve Yadav for the follow-on. And as soon as he came on, Yadav found a little bit of reverse and snaked one into Patel's pads, to effect the first of five LBWs for the Indian seamers in the match.

Indians planned well

When they bowled, England's seamers had also bowled straight — straighter, in fact, than Zaheer and Yadav, according to their pitch-maps — and their captain had given them typically subcontinental fields, with one or sometimes no slip, and catchers lurking at short cover or short midwicket. They knew what they had to do to get wickets.

At various points in the past, in other parts of the subcontinent and Australia, they had shown a degree of mastery over the scuffed-up Kookaburra ball. But this was India, where visiting teams have to contend with an extra layer of home advantage. Where Zaheer and Yadav had reverse-swung the SG ball all their lives, it was an unfamiliar object in the hands of Anderson, Broad and Bresnan.

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