India v England: Joe Root and Matt Prior help tourists recover

 

Fourth Test, Nagpur, day one:

England 199-5 (97 overs)

Match scorecard

Debutant Joe Root and Matt Prior led England's fightback against India on an attritional first day in Nagpur.

After winning the toss England slumped to 139-5 on a slow and low wicket, but Root (31 not out) and Prior (34 no) helped the tourists recover to 199-5.

Kevin Pietersen (73) and Jonathan Trott (44) earlier rescued England from 16-2 after Ishant Sharma dismissed Nick Compton (3) and Alastair Cook (1).

England lead India 2-1, needing a draw in this final Test to win the series.

Analysis

"India got their tactics dead right - they've sat back and waited for England to make mistakes, they've played here before and they've sussed it. Dhoni's had three men in the short mid-wicket area, because as soon as the bowling's been straight they've tried to whip it through mid-wicket. I felt Pietersen played very well, he didn't let the bowlers get on top of him and played with some common sense. Bell's dismissal was a shocking shot - had he not been watching the game? And I'm a Bell fan - there must be nothing between his ears."

The performance of Root, in particular, will encourage England, who drafted the 21-year-old Yorkshire opener in at number six to replace Samit Patel.

The youngster showed real maturity as he mixed stout defence with intelligent run-scoring - the Sheffield-born player looking strong on both sides of the wicket alongside Prior.

It was also another impressive, gritty display by Prior who once again displayed the responsibility which is now complementing his undoubted range of attacking shots in the middle order.

While India kept England in check with some tight bowling and an improved fielding display, England's batsmen may, with the exception of Cook who fell to a poor umpiring decision, rue poor shot selection.

Pietersen, in particular, might be disappointed with the manner of his dismissal after a superb innings which was a masterclass in dogged defence and sensible strokeplay until he holed out.

The 32-year-old, who registered his second slowest Test half-century in the 188-ball knock, chipped debutant all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja into the hands of short mid-wicket to leave England wobbling at 139-5, on a ground where the average first innings score is 397.

"Not once during the build-up to the game did I see the headline 'Joe Root must play', but the way he batted vindicated the decision to hand him his first Test cap."

Pietersen had shown commendable restraint as he cut out the risky shots and, together with Trott in a watchful 86-run partnership, steadied England after a turbulent start.

Sharma, the sole pace bowler in the Indian team, did the early damage as Compton, who has been awarded an incremental contract by England, edged a short ball behind before Cook was given out leg before wicket - despite replays showing the ball might not have shaped in enough.

The ball certainly did enough for Trott's dismissal as the Warwickshire batsman, who looked in good touch, left one from Jadeja which drifted back in and hit off stump.

Ian Bell, who has struggled for runs throughout the tour, again failed as he chipped leg-spinner Piyush Chawla to short extra cover after scoring just one run in 28 balls.

It was another disappointing dismissal for 30-year-old Bell, who has now scored just 56 runs at an average of 14 in his three Tests on tour.

Pietersen milestones

  • Kevin Pietersen passed 15,000 first class runs in his innings of 73
  • He also become the fifth man to reach 1,000 Test runs in 2012
  • He scored his 29th Test half-century

Once Pietersen followed, it appeared England were in danger of collapse until the assured intervention of Root and Prior.

With England's lower order also boosted by the return of Tim Bresnan in place of the injured Steven Finn, the tourists will hope to grind out further runs in their pursuit of a first series win in India since 1985.