Hussain, Flintoff put England in command, 372/7

Published: Friday, July 26, 2002, 23:53 [IST]
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London: Ajit Agarkar took two wickets in two balls as India's bowlers wrested the initiative from England in the first Test of four at Lord's on Friday. At lunch on the second day, England was 372 for seven after winning the toss with recalled all-rounder Craig White five not out and left-arm spinner Ashley Giles 10 not out. And with just tailenders Simon Jones and Matthew Hoggard to come, India still had a chance of dismissing England for under 400. England resumed on 257 for four with captain Nasser Hussain 120 not out and Alec Stewart, in a national record 119th Test, 19 not out. Play began in near identical fashion to Thursday morning with left-armers Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra making the new ball swing as they bowled some probing deliveries. Each beat the outside edge of the bat but, as on the opening day, it was Zaheer who made the early breakthrough with a leg before dismissal. Stewart had faced five balls, failing to add to his overnight score, when he played outside the line of a full-length Zaheer delivery and was lbw to leave England 263 for four in the fourth over of the day. Hussain then had a fortunate escape when on 123 an edge off leg spinner Anil Kumble went through the gap between wicket-keeper Ajay Ratra and slip Rahul Dravid. But Lancashire all-rounder Andrew Flintoff then got off the mark with successive boundaries off Nehra. Zaheer was treated in similar fashion, the powerful Flintoff driving him through extra-cover for four before the next ball, a textbook straight drive, rattled into the pavilion fence. Despite those shots Zaheer once more got through an impressive opening spell, returning figures of 6-4-11-1. Typically there was also plenty of playing and missing from Flintoff who frequently failed to move his feet into line when going for an aggressive shot. But when Flintoff did make contact it was with the full face of the bat, an on- driven six off Kumble bringing up a flamboyant fifty from just 57 balls including nine fours. However, he eventually played one static shot too many when on 59 he edged medium- pacer Agarkar through to Ratra, having put on 93 in 113 balls with Hussain. Then, as often happens, one wicket quickly following another. Agarkar had dismissed Flintoff with the last ball of his 17th over. Then, with the first ball of his 18th, he had Hussain caught behind for 155 in similar fashion, Ratra clinging on well as dived to his right. Hussain had faced 331 balls in a fine captain's innings of over seven hours, which included 25 fours and rescued England from the depths of 78 for three. But at 357 for seven England was still short of the 400 minimum Hussain had said on Thursday was required to give his bowlers enough to defend against a powerful India batting line-up.

Hussain leads from front against India in 1st Test

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