London: India struck just before lunch to leave England 76 for two at the interval on the first day of the first Test of four at Lord's on Thursday. After winning the toss, England captain Nasser Hussain was 37 not out off 76 balls including seven fours with Graham Thorpe four not out. Opening batsman Mark Butcher (29) had started to open up after a nervy start when he was well taken at short leg by Wasim Jaffer off leg spinner Anil Kumble to leave England 71 for two.
Surrey left-hander Butcher, back up the order in the absence of Marcus Trescothick (broken thumb) faced 86 balls including four fours. It was an important breakthrough for India who had seen Butcher and Hussain put on 71 after England lost its first wicket for nought. Earlier, in the second over of the innings left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan's inswinging fifth ball had Michael Vaughan plumb lbw for a duck, Zimbabwean umpire Russell Tiffin making the decision. Both Zaheer and fellow left-armer Ashish Nehra repeatedly beat the bat.
Madras-born Hussain took 14 balls to get off the mark after coming in at the fall of Vaughan's wicket. Meanwhile Zaheer bowled four successive maidens before eventually conceding a single to Hussain off his 27th delivery. His opening spell yielded the impressive figures of 6-4-5-1. Then India almost had a second wicket when with the score on 20, Butcher set off for a reckless single. Had India captain Saurav Ganguly's throw from mid-off hit the stumps left-hander Butcher, then on eight, would have been run out by yards. Instead, with no fielder backing up, the ball went for four overthrows.
The pressure India's new-ball bowlers had applied lessened when medium-pacer Ajit Agarkar replaced Nehra. Hussain stroked him through mid-on for four, cut him for another boundary and then sent a straight drive off Agarkar rattling into the pavilion fence. Butcher also opened up against the same bowler with consecutive fours through mid-off and cover- point. After a testing start, England's fifty came off 108 balls. That acceleration prompted Ganguly to introduce Kumble into the attack.
And in the 27th over the switch was rewarded when Butcher was dismissed, the batsman not waiting for the umpire's verdict. It was just what India wanted to see as it pursued its first Test series victory outside of the sub-continent since 1986 when Kapil Dev captained it to a 2-0 victory in England.