London: England captain Nasser Hussain led England's fight back against India at Lord's on Thursday.
At tea on the first day of the first Test of four, England was 177 for three with Hussain 82 not out off 171 balls including 14 fours. John Crawley was 48 not out off 83 balls with nine fours. Together the pair shared an unbroken stand of 99 after England slumped to 78 for three shortly after lunch. Left-arm quick Zaheer Khan, who had earlier taken England's first wicket with the score on nought, struck again 11 balls into the second session. Graham Thorpe had failed to add his interval 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. Both batsmen had some nervy moments but each also played some fine shots as they battled hard to wrest back the initiative from the India attack. Hussain cover drove Zaheer for four and later brought up his 50 with a quick single off leg spinner Anil Kumble. He reached his half-century off 128 balls including nine fours. At the other end Crawley confirmed his reputation as one of England's better players of spin, only looking fallible against Kumble on one occasion when he tried to turn a leg-break onto the onside and edged just short of Rahul Dravid at first slip. But the Hampshire batsman, recalled to the side because of Marcus Trescothick's broken thumb, recovered to stroke Kumble off the backfoot through the offside for four. That shot brought up a 50 partnership with Hussain off 104 balls. Meanwhile first change Ajit Agarkar, chosen ahead of dangerous off spinner Harbhajan Singh, continued to look the weak link in the attack, his 10 overs costing 45 runs. And Hussain then started to open up against the medium pace of opposing captain Saurav Ganguly, straight driving and then on-driving him for crisp boundaries. Earlier opening batsman 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 Michael Vaughan plumb lbw for a duck. Zaheer bowled four successive maidens before eventually conceding a single to Hussain off his 27th delivery.
India loses early advantage, Eng 76/2 at lunch