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Back where 100s ended, Sehwag begins anew

karthikkrishnaswamy

Posted: Nov 16, 2012 at 0312 hrs IST
      

Ahmedabad: It was a short ball from Tim Bresnan; a half-tracker, a long-hop. But instead of rising chest height, it shot towards the flap of Virender Sehwag’s pads. Most batsmen would have been halfway into a fatal pull. Sehwag sat back, waited, and flipped his wrists over to direct the ball wide of mid on for four.

This was the first morning of the first Test of an extremely important series for India. Last year, in England, they had lost a four-Test series 4-0, and in the process lost their number one ranking in Test cricket. England were in India now.

Having won the toss and opted to bat, India hoped for a good start. This hadn’t happened for a while. Since Centurion in December 2010, Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had gone 21 Test innings without a century partnership. Sehwag hadn’t scored a century since the last time he had played in Ahmedabad, against New Zealand two years ago. It wasn’t exactly a difficult wicket on Thursday, but it was the sort of wicket on which runs would have to be eked out with patience. And yet, India were 92 for no loss. Sehwag was on 58, from 47 balls. The next ball, he launched Bresnan over midwicket for six. India went to lunch at 120 for no loss. Sehwag brought up his hundred 11 overs later, lofting Graeme Swann over mid on for four.

Same yet different

It had been, at the same time, a typical Sehwag innings, and an atypical one. He scored at a run a ball, and his wagon wheel was heavily populated with boundaries square on the off side. But this wasn’t the wicket for his slashes through point and his punches on the up. The genius of Sehwag isn’t that he goes out and plays his `natural game’ regardless of conditions. It instead lies in the way he can curb those instincts and still score as freely as ever. Sehwag put away the slash and the on-the-up punch. He waited on the ball instead, and used the pace of the English seamers to steer the ball wide of point or dab it wide of slip.

This being Sehwag, England had plenty of fielders on the ropes; he cheerfully milked the bowling for singles, 40 in all. When Swann dismissed him with an off break that sneaked under an attempted sweep and knocked back off stump, Sehwag had scored 117 off 117 balls. The Test match was only halfway into its second session.

Already, the Motera strip had telltale diagonal scuff-marks at either end, from the bowlers’ follow-throughs. Low bounce had aided Swann in getting the first two Indian wickets. Sharp turn and uneven bounce would get him two more by the end of the day.

R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha must have eyed all this with interest from the dressing room. Thanks to Sehwag, they will bowl at England with a big total behind them and fielders crowding the bat.

Viruspeak

On Thursday, Sehwag was on song not just on the field, but off it too. Here are some one-liners from his press conference.

On his first ton since 2010

I am happy to get a hundred after one-and-a-half to two years. I did not have any doubt about my ability. You people had.

On whether India have upper hand

England are not Bangladesh. They are a good side. Their batsmen would not throw away their wickets. We would like to bat till tea (tomorrow).

On his preparations on match-eve

I have to thank my video analyst Dhananjay. We watched the videos of my past innings where I got hundreds till 11 pm last night. I saw that when I played the first ten overs cautiously I had reached 100. I did the same today.

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