Ball One – Rahul Dravid has had a wonderful career and epitomises everything that is good about the game, but his powers are inevitably on the wane. Against New Zealand in the Autumn, he scored the century he wanted, but he was blocking too many half-volleys. Not today – once in, Dravid looked to punish the bad ball whenever it arrived. That got him going – and made sure that England knew who was in charge out in the middle.
Ball Two – Stuart Broad may have been fortunate to get the nod over Tim Bresnan and, after a first ball duck, he must have felt under pressure. There’s nothing like wickets to build confidence and, with the Indian top three already under his belt, he bowled a superb over, the best of the summer, to Laxman and Dravid, inducing two edges into the slips – both of which were dropped. Length, as ever with Broad, was the key. What do catches win?
Ball Three – Rahul Dravid is a magnificently understated character, a kind of anti-KP. At his fifty, he merely raised his bat to acknowledge the applause, accepted a firm handshake from VVS as he passed him walking back to the crease and took guard again. That’s what he has done for fifteen years, since I was fortunate enough to see him make his debut at Lord’s. Much has changed in cricket and in India in those years, but little has changed in India’s Number Three.
Ball Four – India look undercooked. Some might blame the Future Tours Programme, but I blame Duncan Fletcher who delivered England to The Ashes 2006-7 similarly undercooked and would exercise his right to keep centrally contracted players out of first class cricket to such an extent that England players were often seeking a bit of form in midsummer! Hubris is the word, I believe.
Ball Five – Not sure that Jonathan Trott – admirable cricketer though he is – can be a fifth (or a sixth) bowler. Whilst he can get England to the new ball more quickly, he gets the batsmen into a bit of touch too. Even the most experienced players feel better when the scoreboard is ticking over. With Ravi Bopara and Ben Stokes about as far away from selection as I am, there’s not much choice for Strauss come the 70 over mark, but at least Matt Prior didn’t have a go.
Ball Six – Neither Broad nor Tremlett are genuinely fast men, but they look the part and can find disconcerting bounce on most tracks (well, most tracks outside the subcontinent). Upper order batsmen are merely discomfited, but lower order men don’t like it at all – just as important, Broad and Tremlett know it.