A Quiet Classic

In a quiet way, the first Test between England and India at Lord's was a classic. Or at least it looked like that to an English follower starved of competitive Test cricket for most of the summer. The unique brilliance of Shivnarine Chanderpaul can only take a series so far, and it was good to see England back in a battle. A battle in which they won most of the minor skirmishes and very nearly the whole damn thing.

There's simply no getting away from the fact that England look a more positive, united and vibrant team whenever they're led on to the field by Michael Vaughan. And, with the skipper himself refreshed as a result of his extended injury layoff and showing the type of judgement, command and tactical acumen which used to be second nature, they're even better. With a series of bowlers who can all hit the cut strip with regularity and move the ball at will in their different ways, they're better still.

With those bases covered, all you need is runs. They were largely provided by a watchful, often hesitant but deserving Andrew Strauss, the renewed elegance of Michael Vaughan, and Kevin Pietersen, who, in typical fashion, progressed through the gears to the point of total command after lunch on Sunday.

England's bowlers performed with relaxed penetration. It's no more than you expect from Sidebottom and Panesar now, but it was great to see Jimmy Anderson deliver his most complete performance in an England shirt and Chris Tremlett, whose unexpected selection ahead of Stuart Broad almost had me choking on my hotel breakfast on the first morning, justified his place and dropped a few hints for the future.

India started poorly with the ball in favourable conditions on Thursday but turned things around after Friday morning's monsoon. Zaheer hinted at his Worcester form, Sreesanth ran in hard and gained a few rewards from Steve Bucknor, and RP Singh looked like a bit of a find. Runs were harder to come by though, with only Karthik and Dhoni, in the second innings, really doing themselves justice. Dravid was unusually anonymous (but will surely come back fighting), Tendulkar lacked authority (and the jury is out on whether he can find it again), Ganguly flashed with bat and mouth but never suggested permanence, and Laxman's footwork and demeanour looked a bit too diffident for his own good.

England deserved to win and were unlucky not to get the chance to finish the job, although, if they could have stirred themselves to bowl their overs a bit more quickly yesterday morning they'd probably have wrapped the game up way before the rain came. I see from Cricinfo that the otherwise admirable Peter Moores is trying to justify England's slow over-rate by reference to the need for meticulous field-placing. That's as maybe, but they could do a lot better by cutting out their latest piece of modish fielding nonsense which appears to be to throw the ball to the wicket-keeper from anywhere on the field, regardless of whether there's any point to it. If the batsman hits the ball to mid-off and is not attempting a run, then why doesn't the mid-off fielder just throw the ball straight back to the bowler, rather than hurling it to Matt Prior and then getting it back about thirty seconds later via one of the slips (usually Strauss)? Talking of which, I don't think one of the slips (usually Strauss at Lord's again) needs to polish the ball on his backside until his trousers are virtually worn away after every ball. Fifteen overs an hour should be relatively straightforward whoever's bowling, and might show that the players have given some thought to the fact that people have actually paid money to watch them play and have the right to expect to see ninety overs in a day.

India look to be going in the right direction with the ball but will need more runs from all parts of the order if they're going to threaten England at Nottingham and The Oval. And it's up to SRT to show that reports of his imminent demise are greatly exaggerated.

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