x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Zaheer injury casts a shadow as England dig in

Zaheer Khan impresses until injury strikes him down, while Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen rescue England on a tricky opening day at Lord's.

Jonathan Trott, left, and Kevin Pietersen were involved in an unbroken 65-run stand yesterday.
Jonathan Trott, left, and Kevin Pietersen were involved in an unbroken 65-run stand yesterday.

LONDON // Zaheer Khan provided a master-class of swing bowling against England yesterday, but then sparked fears over his future participation in the series after he limped off injured.

The leader of the Indian bowling attack is regarded as a key figure in this summer's encounter between the two leading Test nations.

The left-arm fast bowler showed just why he is held in such high regard with an outstanding display with the ball on a rain-curtailed first day at Lord's.

However, after sending down the third ball of his 13th over, he pulled up clutching his right hamstring and trudged from the field immediately.

Zaheer has only recently recuperated from an ankle injury, that forced him to miss India's tour of the West Indies, that preceded their trip to the UK.

Initially, he had displayed few ill-effects from his absence, as he continued the new-ball brilliance which did so much to bring the World Cup back to India in April.

As is often the case in India, where bowlers usually have to bend a knee to their more celebrated batting colleagues, Zaheer's contribution in the World Cup final success has been somewhat overlooked.

In that match in Mumbai, he started off with three straight maidens to the Sri Lankan openers. The underdogs never recovered from that, and, after Zaheer had laid the platform, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir proceeded to take the glory.

Despite missing the trip to the West Indies, Zaheer carried on from where he left off yesterday. Granted, he was aided by favourable climatic conditions, but he still had to control the substantial swing he found.

If anything, he was cheated by his return of two wickets for 18 runs from his 13.3 overs. In particular, he should at least have been four runs better off, after he beat Jonathan Trott with a delivery that ran away for four.

Billy Bowden, the umpire, signalled the boundary. It was an acceptable mistake. Zaheer had arced the ball away from the defensive prod of Trott at such an alarming angle, it seemed only possible it had taken the outside edge of the bat as it flew between Dhoni and the first-slip, Rahul Dravid.

Those runs were the first Zaheer had conceded off the bat in 34 consecutive deliveries. It was not the only chance Trott was afforded. Earlier, Dravid had grassed a catch off the first delivery from Harbhajan Singh, the off-spinner.

However, England's No 3 perhaps deserved his luck as he batted skillfully against the moving ball, and ended the opening day 58 not out.

Given all the hullabaloo that consumed the build-up to this meeting between the Test game's two pre-eminent nations, there was always the chance it might struggle to live up to expectations.

Leaden grey rain clouds hovered over the ground all day. Initially, it seemed set to benefit India, who won a potentially crucial toss.

Although it was clearly the sage choice, given the helpful bowling conditions, Dhoni's decision to field first was not a universally popular one.

Lord's was packed in anticipation of a number of milestones. This was the 100th Test between these two nations, and the 2,000th in all, but the greatest interest surrounded the prospect of seeing Sachin Tendulkar make his 100th international hundred. The Mumbai batsman will not mind having to wait for his chance, especially once he saw Zaheer Khan's first delivery swing prodigiously.

It was still something of a let down. Tendulkar had hoped to bat on the first day, while his son, Arjun, was there to watch.

He was scheduled on a 5pm flight back to India yesterday afternoon, so, if it is to happen, he will have to watch daddy's achievement on the television rather than in the flesh.

pradley@thenational.ae