Cricket - Sehwag hits ton as England graft against India

India's batsmen left England's seamers toiling, reaching 323 for four wickets on day one of the first Test in Ahmedabad.

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Cricket - Sehwag hits ton as England graft against India
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Virender Sehwag, CRICKET

Virender Sehwag hit a run-a-ball 117 to set the tone after India won the toss and elected to bat on a flat-looking surface, while Cheteshwar Pujara reached stumps on 98 not out in partnership with Yuvraj Singh.

It would have been far worse for England had Graeme Swann not bowled a long and disciplined spell, completing 32 overs and taking all four wickets to fall.

He might well have benefited from additional spin support on a pitch which was immediately receptive to it and appeared to wear during the day, but England opted to pick three seamers with Tim Bresnan replacing the injured Steven Finn, and Monty Panesar left out, with Samit Patel recalled to bat at six and perform the role of all-rounder. Nick Compton was handed a Test debut to fill former captain Andrew Strauss' boots at the top of the order.

But Compton and new England skipper Alastair Cook were overshadowed by the effort from India opener Sehwag.

He had not hit a century at Test level in over two years, but made a mockery of his lack of form. He hit James Anderson out of the attack early on with three fours in an over, while Bresnan saw six overs disappear for 37, including four-four-six in three balls, as England struggled from the beginning.

Sehwag and partner Gautam Gambhir reached lunch on 120 without loss, at which point a huge total seemed possible.

England's fielding standards have slipped since their peak 18 months ago, and with chances thin on the ground, their wastefulness looked set to derail their afternoon. With 80 runs to his name, Sehwag glanced a ball down the leg side off Anderson in the first over after lunch, with Matt Prior failing to hold on. In the next over Swann drew an outside edge from Gambhir which again eluded the wicketkeeper. Perhaps wisely, he took the field out of the equation three balls later, clean-bowling the left-hander.

Pujara should have followed cheaply, with a leading edge against Bresnan looping over Anderson at mid on, who completely misjudged where the ball was headed. Instead, he settled into partnership with Sehwag, ghosting to his fifty with elegant strokeplay while Sehwag cantered to his 23rd Test ton.

Sehwag lost momentum late in the afternoon session and was bowled after missing a sweep to Swann. Sachin Tendulkar followed for 13, looping a catch up to Patel in the deep shortly before tea.

England bowled Swann almost continuously through the final session, in tandem with short bursts from Anderson and Broad and then a longer spell from Patel, and the run rate dwindled sharply. India had raced along in excess of four an over for two sessions - it was down at two an over for much of the evening.

Swann picked up the wicket of Virat Kohli with a jaffer through the gate, though the fact that the delivery took a bit of the pitch with it will encourage India's two front-line spinners, who will get their own turn to exploit the pitch, particularly in the fourth innings.

India did slow down as the tourists regained some control late in the evening, but Pujara and Yuvraj saw the hosts safely through to the close of play in control of the game after the opening day.

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