London, July 22: Day 1 of India's first Test of the England tour would have left most of the visitors' attack cursing their luck. They had everything going for them: damp conditions, tentative batsmen (save Jonathan Trott), an unusually sloping pitch and a surfeit of swing. But at the end of the day, one would surmise that the hosts had wrested the upper-hand with a score 127/2.
Life on the 22 yards was rife with misfortune for Indian pacer Praveen Kumar. This even though, the new-comer bowled like a player worthy of gracing the Mecca of Cricket. Right from his first over, one was astounded at the prodigious swing that he was effecting at his patented medium pace. He got the ball to change trajectory and seam, away and into the batsmen with bewildering regularity.
But time and again, like an agonising Greek tragedy, the edge of the bat mysteriously eluded Praveen's deliveries. It would be safe to say that English opener Andrew Strauss was pummeled into submission by Praveen as is suggested by the batsman's 83-ball 22. The seamer had him constantly checking his shots while leaving others alone.
At the other end, Zaheer Khan showed why his credentials precede him. He was the only paceman who had something to show for the years of experience under his belt. There was a zip to his deliveries that only a speedster of his pace could dish out. He achieved the opening breakthrough, by doing something that happened very rarely through the day - rap the batsman on the pads, and that too in front of middle and leg. His victim was a shaky Alastair Cook whose departure was anyway on the cards.
Ishant Sharma was in comparison to his fellows, a bit of a disappointment. In trying to religiously maintain his outside the off-stump line, he was doing very little to faze the batsmen. While it was evident he was bowling to a plan, he could have directed a few more off-cutters and coerce the batsmen into playing their shots.
Finally, Harbhajan Singh too had hardly any impact, except for one delivery that took Trott's outside edge only to be spilled by Rahul Dravid at slip. Meanwhile, Zaheer was left to bemoan a wicket-keeper's catching opportunity which M S Dhoni inexplicably allowed to sail by him.
Spectators and fans alike will be hoping that India is able to overpower the English line-up on Day 2. Without an injured Zaheer, that could be a tall order.