Ball One 10.34am – MS Dhoni wins the toss and, as at Lord’s, bowls. I felt that was a mistake but today I feel it’s a 50:50 shout. It will be a tough first session, but the cluds may well lift come the afternoon, though the wicket looks green enough to offer seam movement all day. England will be happy to get through the day five down and look to press on tomorrow – India will look to be batting through Days Two and Three, because it will not be easy on Day Five. Test Cricket in England seldom gives easy decisions at the toss and “Trent Bridge on a cloudy morning” is the most difficult call of all.
Ball Two 11.53am – Sreesanth, having just snared Trott with a lovely outswinger that drew Trott into an injudiciously attacking stroke too early in his innings, bowls the first ball to KP short and outside off in an attempt to repeat the ball that Sharma delivered to dismiss him at Lord’s. No doubt that was the plan as hatched last night, but was it right this morning? Why not pitch it up and try to get KP with the same ball that got Trott just a couple of minutes earlier? A batsman is at his most vulnerable to his first ball and it should never be wasted – and bowlers should be good enough to think on the their feet.
Ball Three 12.24pm – Praveen Kumar raps KP on the pads and there’s a big shout, but Asad Rauf disappoints the bowler. Even the DRS would not have benefited Kumar, as KP is so far down the track that the 2.5m margin of doubt kicked in. With Kumar’s ability to move the ball both ways, umpires will have plenty of doubts when the batsman is on the front foot. Since he doesn’t have the pace to force the batsman back, why isn’t Dhoni standing up to pin the batsman to his crease? The captain of the World’s Number One team will have to tell us.
Ball Four 3.00pm – A dismissal can usually be ascribed to a combination of bowler’s skill and batsman’s culpability – on a spectrum, think Gatting getting the “Ball of the Century” at one extreme and Gatting leaving a straight one that hits middle and off at the other). Though India’s bowlers have not got every ball in the right place, they have got enough on to a length that has the batsman unsure whether to go forward or back to cause England’s impressive top seven plenty of problems. On an very English day on a very English ground, that’s a very decent effort from seam bowlers short of Test experience in this country.
Ball Five 3.30pm – Though it’s easier to say than to do, getting a good stride in to the moving ball is key to playing it successfully. In 2005, Matthew Hayden got into trouble by planting his front foot and being done LBW or popping one up in front of the wicket (older readers will remember Graham Gooch’s similar problems with Terry Alderman) and perhaps that has led to an over-emphasis on playing the ball late. On good wickets and on non-swinging days, playing the ball late characterises the best batsmen, but on a seaming, swinging day like this, playing the ball late offers more opportunity for the ball to deviate. Test cricket asks so many questions of its players and finding the best way to combat lateral movement is the key question today.
Ball Six 4.20pm – Though Swanny and Broad have pretensions to being proper late-order batsmen, on a day that has proved difficult enough for the upper order, it’s right for them to come out and play a few shots. Momentum can be over-rated, but a late-order stand can double-up its value by inducing top-order wickets, as the bowlers enjoy the innings change ribbing their batsmen and come out full of confidence to face opening batsmen still frustrated by their team-mates’ inability to finish off their opponents.