KP, Root, Prior anchor England


Day one of the fourth and final Test between England and India brought three telling sessions of attritional cricket at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium on Thursday.

Day one of the fourth and final Test between England and India brought three telling sessions of attritional cricket at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium on Thursday.

The dour nature of the pitch was evident from the first delivery, and largely defensive field placements from host captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni gradually added to the monotony.

For their dogged approach, though, England climbed to 199 for five in a day that brought an unprecedented 97 overs – thanks to an Indian attack lined with all of four spin bowlers.

The in-form Kevin Pietersen was at the fore of a total that is arguably worth more than relatively small reading, given the pressing need for time at the crease rather than runs on the board.

Skipper Alastair Cook, triumphant at the toss the first time this series, was correct to bat first. No captain has bucked this trend at the in Nagpur yet. Neither Cook nor fellow opener Nick Compton, however, were able to support the decision.

Compton was the first to fall, edging a relatively tame delivery from seamer Ishant Sharma to wicketkeeper Dhoni in the fifth over. The left-hander's dismissal typified a deck riddled with low bounce throughout.

The left-handed Cook departed six overs later, with his otherwise rich vein of form tarnished by a shaky decision from umpire Kumar Dharmasena, who adjudged the skipper out lbw to Sharma after the ball struck his front pad outside the line of the off-stump.

Ishant, the lone seamer in the XI, was effectively spent after a superb opening burst – and Jadeja, leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, left-armer Pragyan Ojha and off-spinner sent down the bulk of the day's overs.

Pietersen and the right-handed Jonathan Trott were left to an alliance of 86 inside 40 overs. The pair, particularly the half-centurion, offered little entertainment value – but certainly staved off a potential wobble.

Trott's misjudgement, though, ended the collective defiance. His choice to leave spinner Ravindra Jadeja's lack of turn saw his off-stump toppled, with the error affording the Indian his maiden Test wicket.

Pre-tea brought the fall of the fragile Ian Bell, who holed out to cover for a 28-ball single. Occasionally too attacking and this time arguably overcautious, Bell is struggling to find a happy medium in India.

Pietersen, meanwhile, will be livid with himself for not graduating to three figures. The second interval seemingly punctuated the concentration that had served him so well for all of 187 deliveries. The 188th, however, ballooned to the hands of Ojha at midwicket.

At 139 for five, the stage was suitably set for India to romp through the second half of the opposition's innings. The nuggety Joe Root and wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior, though, would not relent during their unbroken 60-run stand in near 30 overs.

Root, picked ahead of all-rounder Samit Patel, fared entirely well – and seems more of a Test match package than his predecessors, James Taylor, Ravi Bopara or Eoin Morgan.

Unbeaten on 34 and 31 respectively, Prior and Root will demand more of themselves – and each other – come Friday, when the pitch is likely to find more turn.

Thursday's virtues were palpably clear: this fourth and final Test will be decided by persistence and patience. The tourists, for now, have proven they will have the ability to outlast the home side again.