Nottingham, July 9: Murali Vijay struck a unbeaten century as India recovered from a post-lunch wobble to reach a decent 259 for four at the end of the the opening day of the first cricket Test against England, here today.
The 30-year-old Vijay (122 not out) notched up his his fourth Test century and batted right through the day to steer the visitors to a comfortable position after being reduced to 107 for three just at at the start of the second session at Trent Bridge.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (50 not out off 64 balls) was giving Vijay company at close on an absorbing opening day's play. Vijay decorated his 294-ball stay at the crease with 20 boundaries and one six, while Dhoni struck five fours en route to his half-century knock.
The duo shared unbeaten 81 runs for the fifth wicket, digging India out of trouble after some fine rearguard fourth-wicket partnership of 71 runs between Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane (32 runs off 81 balls, 4 fours) in the post-lunch session.
But India witnessed a scare just after lunch as they lost Cheteshwar Pujara (38 off 69, 7 fours) and Virat Kohli (1) in quick succession to reel at 107 for three at one stage.
James Anderson (2/70), Stuart Broad (1/26) and Liam Plunkett (1/56) were the only wicket-takers for England. In the post-tea session, Vijay resumed his innings at 92 in the company of Rahane.
But the latter didn't last long, getting out in a freak manner soon after the break, bottom-edging a short delivery from Liam Plunkett to captain Alastair Cook at silly point. The dismissal brought an end to their 71-run fourth-wicket stand that lasted 27.1 overs and saved India the blushes.
Tea - India 177/3
A solid batting display by Vijay took India to 177 for three at tea.
The visitors fought their way into the match after losing Cheteshwar Pujara (38) and Virat Kohli (1) early in the afternoon session.
Vijay was nearing his fourth Test hundred on 92 off 176 balls while Ajinkya Rahane held the other end on 32 off 77. India had started the session at 106/1 (30 overs) with Vijay (55 batting) and Pujara at the crease.
They had put on 73 runs for the second wicket in the morning session as the English bowlers had found the going tough on a placid wicket. But the story changed as the players took the field after lunch, with James Anderson (2-50) and Stuart Broad (1-19) suddenly finding reverse swing.
Pujara was the first to go, in the second over after lunch, as the delivery from Anderson jagged in and took off with Ian Bell at a straight, silly mid-on completing a stunning one-handed catch diving to his right. Indias number three batsman departed without adding to his tally.
It became a massive double blow when Kohli was out in the very next over. Broad got him with one that left him minutely and took the bats edge falling straight to Bell at second slip. Suddenly India were tottering at 107/3 and with just six batsmen playing, things didnt really look cosy.
Rahane walked in next and spent some tense moments at the crease. At the other end, Vijay stayed put as the two batsmen played out this tough spell and bided their time to see out the strike bowlers.
As a result, the scoring rate suffered with only 18 runs coming from the 14 overs bowled in the first hour after lunch. But it didnt matter much as the fall of wickets was controlled.
Then with Anderson and Broad going off the attack, Vijay-Rahane started plucking runs off other bowlers. Liam Plunkett (0-41), Ben Stokes (0-37) and Moeen Ali (0-28) made little impression as the batsmen brought up their 50-run partnership in the 54th over.
Lunch - India 106/1
A fine half-century by opener Vijay helped India reach 106 for one at lunch after Shikhar Dhawan's early fall.
Electing to bat, India were dealt an early blow with Dhawan caught behind off James Anderson for 12 but Vijay (55 not out) and Cheteshwar Pujara (38 not out) steadied the ship with a 73-run unbeaten stand.
England skipper Alastair Cook tried all his top five bowlers in a hope to get some early assistance on an otherwise placid track with easy pace and bounce for the batsman to score off.
Anderson (1-40) though proved to be the only wicket-taker with the new ball albeit in an expensive opening spell. Indian captain MS Dhoni, who had no hesitations batting first, was backed by his batsmen on a sunny morning.
The visitors handed a Test debut to all-rounder Stuart Binny, choosing to play five bowlers, and dropping Rohit Sharma to make way for him.
The Karnataka player follows in his father - former cricketer and also current selector - Roger Binny's footsteps and the duo became the tenth father-son pair to represent the country in Test cricket.
England too made one change to their eleven from the loss to Sri Lanka at Headingley, bringing in fit-again all-rounder Ben Stokes in place of Chris Jordan. Vijay then opened the innings with Dhawan (12 runs, 24 balls) as the openers looked to make full use of the favourable batting conditions.
The scoring started with a flurry of boundaries, three of them in the first over itself, as Anderson proved costly in his opening spell of the series. It was a change in roles for the two batsmen, as Vijay was the one off to a flier while Dhawan played carefully and looked to make a solid start.