London: England captain Nasser Hussain justified his decision to bat first by making an unbeaten century on the opening day of the first Test of four against India here at Lord's on Thursday. At stumps England were 257 for four with number three Hussain, who batted nearly all day after his side lost their first wicket on nought, 120 not out after just short of six hours at the crease. He had faced 262 balls including 20 fours. Alec Stewart, in an England record-breaking 119th Test, was 19 not out.
Left-arm quick Zaheer Khan, who began the day by bowling four successive maidens never flagged and was the pick of the Indian attack with two for 53 from 22 overs. Hussain, 82 not out at tea, brought up his 11th Test hundred in his 73rd match with a single to fine leg off Zaheer. It was the Madras-born Hussain's third century against India and his fourth as England skipper, the Essex right-hander facing 192 balls including 17 fours. At that stage the 34-year-old Hussain had made nearly half of his side's total of 201. And it was also his second Lord's hundred in 12 days after his 115 during India's one-day triangular series final victory on July 13. Hussain received solid support in a fourth-wicket stand of 145 from Hampshire's John Crawley that rescued England from the shaky position of 78 for three.
Crawley, recalled because of Marcus Trescothick's broken thumb, made a well-constructed 64. But, having played well against leg-spinner Anil Kumble, he became part-time off-spinner Virender Sehwag's first Test wicket, Rahul Dravid taking a sharp slip catch off a deliberate cut to leave England 223 for four. Crawley faced 126 balls including nine fours. Zaheer, who had earlier taken England's first wicket struck again 11 balls into the second session. Graham Thorpe was still on his lunch score of four when he played inside the line of an accurate full-length delivery that clipped off-stump. However, from there on in Hussain and Crawley dug in, nervy moments early on giving way to sound shot-making.
Meanwhile first change Ajit Agarkar, chosen ahead of off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, remained the weak link in the attack, his 12 overs costing 49 runs. Earlier opener Mark Butcher (29) was well taken at short leg by Wasim Jaffer off Kumble to leave England 71 for two, shortly before lunch. Butcher, like Thorpe a Surrey left-hander, faced 86 balls including four fours. It was an important breakthrough for India who had seen Butcher and Hussain put on 71 after Zaheer's inswinging fifth ball had opener Michael Vaughan plumb lbw for a duck. It was what India wanted to see as they pursued their first Test series victory outside of the sub-continent since 1986 when Kapil Dev captained them to a 2-0 victory in England.