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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 11:30 GMT
England toss away Test initiative
First Test, Nagpur: England 246-7 (day one, stumps)

A Cook
Alastair Cook looked well suited to the demands of Test cricket
England squandered the chance to seize the initiative after winning the toss in Nagpur as they stumbled to 246-7 at the end of the first day's play.

Debutant Alastair Cook (60) and Paul Collingwood each hit half-centuries but a number of promising partnerships were nipped in the bud by India.

The most valuable stand was one worth 67 between Collingwood (53 not out) and stand-in captain Andrew Flintoff (43).

Left-arm seamer Irfan Pathan took three wickets for the hosts.

Essex 21-year-old Cook, one of three new faces for England, was drafted from the A tour of West Indies at short notice.

It's almost been the best way, straight into playing with not too much time to think about it
Alastair Cook

The other debutants were spinners Ian Blackwell, listed to bat at eight, and a second slow left-armer, Monty Panesar - the first Sikh to represent England.

Early on, England were impressive.

Flintoff, taking over as captain in the absence of Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick, looked visibly relieved to have called correctly after the toss.

Openers Cook and Andrew Strauss were into their stride quickly.

Essex 21-year-old Cook latched onto a long-hop from debutant Sri Sreesanth to get off the mark with a pulled four. Then Strauss stroked three fours off Pathan's second over.

With a flat wicket and a fast outfield at their disposal, the two left-handers quickly grew in confidence.

S Sreesanth
Sreesanth was one of two debutants who impressed on Wednesday

Strauss threaded the ball with precision through the off-side to pick up regular runs while Cook also played some fine cover drives.

India broke through just after the hour mark with the total on 56 when Sreesanth, with the seventh ball of his second spell, ended Strauss' innings on 28.

The Middlesex man drove at a wide ball which flew at pace towards VVS Laxman's throat. The fielder reacted swiftly to take the catch.

India skipper Rahul Dravid soon opted for spin at both ends, with veteran Anil Kumble joining the attack.

Both Cook and Ian Bell struggled to read the degree of turn and bounce and it was not entirely surprising when Harbhajan picked up a wicket just before lunch, Bell falling for just nine.

A delivery that went straight on as the batsman played for a non-existent off-break was edged to Dravid at slip.

The skipper dived to his left and failed to take it cleanly at the first attempt, but the wicket went down to give India a massive lift at such a crucial stage.

Kevin Pietersen, four balls after being dropped, was the next man to go as an indiscrete pull shot against Sreesanth crashed into the stumps.

The runs rather dried up for Cook at this point and when Pathan was brought back into the attack, he achieved the next breakthrough.

A ball that shaped to angle through the gate brushed the inside edge of Cook's bat and India were firmly in charge at 136-4.

After tea however, Flintoff and Collingwood, the first batsmen prepared to play lofted shots against the spinners, looked poised for a meaningful partnership.

But it ended when a Kumble delivery slanting into Flintoff resulted in a positive lbw verdict from umpire Ian Howells.

Replays suggested the ball might have missed leg stump.

Geraint Jones, who hit two confident fours off Sachin Tendulkar, fell to an even more dubious lbw decision.

Pathan, bowling with the second new ball, got one to straighten a little but although it may have flicked pad before bat, it seemed to be missing off stump.

As the shadows lengthened, Collingwood hit the day's only six by mowing Kumble over mid-wicket.

But India went into the dressing-room by far the happier of the two sides - particularly after Blackwell had inside-edged Pathan onto his stumps via a flat-footed drive.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: England batsman Alistair Cook


News conference: India's Shanathakumaran Sreesanth



ENGLAND SQUAD GUIDE
 

SEE ALSO
Jonathan Agnew column
01 Mar 06 |  England
Surgeon upbeat on Vaughan injury
01 Mar 06 |  England
Panesar does family proud
01 Mar 06 |  England
How to win in India
01 Mar 06 |  England
India grounds profiled
13 Feb 06 |  Cricket
England in India 2006
08 Dec 05 |  Future tour dates


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