England take control at Lord's in first Test

ENGLAND have full control of this first Test match courtesy of some superb seam bowling by Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett and a wonderful opportunity to force a victory and a lead in the series.

Such was their dominance that on a rather somnolent pitch - which is too frequent at Lord's - they nearly forced India to follow-on. Indeed without a typically defiant innings from Rahul Dravid and some effective swinging from tailender Praveen Kumar they might well have. How could such a vaunted batting line-up be dismissed so cheaply?

The main reason was the resurgence of Stuart Broad. On docile pitches that have not broken up to assist spinners, the new ball is paramount. Broad in the first session was quite magnificent. He bowled Gautam Gambhir with a beautiful in- swinger that bypassed the attempted drive and sneaked in the gap between bat and pad.

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Then he was a tad lucky that Abhniav Mukund dragged a wide half-volley on to his stumps but his dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar was textbook, a good length, swift outswinger that took the edge.

Yesterday was a lesson for Broad as he has spent recent months threatening batters' heads and chests with a barrage of short-pitched deliveries. His successes in his spell were because he pitched the ball up and allowed it to swing. It was so effective that he could have had the first five wickets but VVS Laxman and Dravid were dropped in quick succession by Andrew Strauss and Graeme Swann respectively.

Laxman failed to punish England and was out soon after lifting Tremlett to Jonathan Trott, the sole sentry in the deep on the leg-side but Dravid did by batting sedately for the rest of the innings and ensuring his name goes on the honours wall of the dressing room with his first century at Lord's. He is known as "The Wall" for a reason, and England must not be so profligate in future if they are to win this series. His obduracy on his own is not enough though, and India will have to become a lot sharper in thought and deed if they are to live up to their billing as the number one team in the world.

It may not be the players' fault as they have been playing for the best part of eight months non-stop but they have seemed a little lacklustre and sluggish since arriving in England. Their only first-class match against Somerset was a travesty of a match as they bowled half-pace and showed little interest. The problem with lazy attitudes is they can be damned difficult to lose.

Consider their efforts in this Test match. Zaheer Khan was not particularly fit before the match.He did not bowl in the second innings at Taunton and is clearly carrying a bit too much timber around the middle. He showed he is a highly skilled bowler on Thursday but since then he has been on the treatment table and despite the claims of the Indian management unlikely to play next week at Trent Bridge.

Their fielding was poor, not only the dropped catches but their general work rate as England ran hard. A perfect example was any time England hit an extra cover drive that pulled up just short of the boundary they ran three. Tendulkar got off the mark with such a shot and he and Dravid coasted a two. Over five days such small differences can become something substantial.

And finally there was the dismissal of Suresh Raina. Dravid had caressed Swann in the off-side and sprinted for two. He is 38 years old, was returning to the danger end and yet was sent back by a 25-year-old who is meant to be one of the swifter players in the side. Not only was it foolish to ignore a run when the scoreboard was reading like a Stephen King horror story, it also meant Raina, a left-hander, was exposed to Swann, the best spin bowler to left handers in world cricket. Was it ignorance? Unlikely, considering the Indian coach Duncan Fletcher is a master of even the tiniest detail. So we must assume it was foolishness and Raina suffered accordingly for his laziness by lasting precisely one ball from Swann.

It was stupid and demonstrative of so much of the Indian cricket in the match. They as a team had not respected the basic fundamentals of the game and were punished for it.

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World champions at 50 overs they may be, IPL millionaires many times over they certainly are and 1 billion people adore them but none of that matters when the opposition 22 yards away are a lot hungrier, better prepared and with a point to prove.

And this may be a recurring issue for them. Not one of the lower order looked prepared to stick around and try and thwart the England attack. Instead they showed little stomach for the fight when Tremlett and Broad targeted their bodies and such cowardice will be severely tested in every subsequent match.

So they bat to seven, labour in the field and their prime seam bowler is on the butcher's slab after 14 overs.

England have a great chance to win this series and win it well. If they do win it by a margin of two matches they will become No.1. It is within their grasp.

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