England fought back credibly well in their second innings at Motera, Ahmedabad thanks to their skipper Alastair Cook and wicket-keeper Matt Prior. But, while the comeback allowed them to avoid the ignominy of an innings loss, it wasn’t enough to prevent them from losing the Test. Keeping aside their dogged performance in the second innings, it was their first innings collapse which cost them the match. After allowing India to get away to a massive score, England needed to get as close to the Indian total as possible in reply. That they fell way short of the follow-on mark as well told a story in itself.
Right from the time India won the toss, they held the upper hand for most part of the Test. The positives began to flow for India from the very beginning of the innings, with Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir stitching up a formidable opening partnership after a long time. And, while the left-hander would be disappointed that he couldn’t convert his start into a big score, Sehwag and India would be pleased, relieved rather, that he got a Test century after a two-year waiting period. With the pitch offering no assistance, Sehwag played a typically attacking knock, and set up a perfect platform for the batsmen to follow. Of course, it would have been even better had heremained unbeaten in the second innings too.
The biggest plus for India from the match was undoubtedly the exceptional performance of Cheteshwar Pujara. It is too early to compare him with Rahul Dravid, but such has been Pujara’s application and dedication that some eager cricketing pundits have already termed him India’s new ‘wall’. It would be unfair to blame them though for Pujara’s aptitude for runs seems Dravidesque for sure. The fact that he remained unbeaten throughout the Test was a clear example of the above-mentioned point. His sterner test will be when he tours abroad. For now though, he is beginning to establish a good reputation as a hungry accumulator of runs.
There were mixed results for India in the spin department. While Pragyan Ojha was highly effective in both innings, the same couldn’t be said about his partner Ravichandran Ashwin. Going into the Test, the offie was seen as India’s main spinner, but Ojha has certainly emerged out of his shadows with a performance that proved again that he is worth his place in the side. Ojha not only bowled a number of wicket-taking deliveries, but also rarely offered any loose balls. Ashwin, on the other hand, went into the game claiming to have developed a mystery ball, but ended up putting a mysterious performance himself. Thanks to incisive spells from Umesh Yadav, India did not seem one bowler short.
For England, the Test was all about captain Cook. But for the skipper, the match would have been over a day earlier. And even though the visitors ended up losing the Test, Cook’s defiant, marathon knock would give the side confidence as they head into the next Test. The management would have been pleased to see Prior put his hand up as well. India have begun the revenge series on the right note, but England have given enough hints that they cannot be taken lightly even in spinner-friendly conditions.
--By A Cricket Analyst