In contrast to the insipid opening day show the visitors made the perfect start when Ishant Sharma drew Cook into pushing outside off with his fifth delivery and Virender Sehwag, deputising momentarily for Rahul Dravid at first slip, held on and then raised his arms in celebration. Ishant, who was the best of a poor attack on Thursday, made life very hard for the top order, while RP Singh, although still medium pace, maintained a steadier line. Ishant’s first spell of the day of 6-3-7-1 highlighted India’s improvement.
Despite the cloud cover having completely vanished to be replaced by clear, blue skies there was still some swing on offer but, crucially, there was also more intent from the bowlers. It took England about 20 minutes to score their first run and Strauss was tied down throughout the opening hour. The captain added just two to his overnight score off 32 balls before his patience gave way and he drove at a wide delivery from Sreesanth.
Bell provided the occasional early boundaries, which arrived as he guided RP Singh past the slips with soft hands and drove Sreesanth elegantly through the covers. Bell’s innings at Edgbaston, albeit in different circumstances, was a fairly skittish affair but he was very controlled here against bowling that needed some respect.
Spin was introduced in the final half hour of the session and Amit Mishra’s first delivery was slammed through the covers by Pietersen who then whipped another boundary through midwicket signalling he didn’t want Mishra to settle. However, he had a nervous moment off the last ball of the session when he flicked Ishant towards Suresh Raina at leg slip – much like he did early in his double hundred at Lord’s – but it didn’t quite carry to the fielder.
It was a clever piece of cricket from Ishant who asked for the fielder when he noted how far Pietersen was moving across the stumps. In all aspects this was much more like the quality of cricket India should be producing.