AHMEDABAD, Nov 19 (PTI): India broke through the stubborn England resistance with a morning burst of five wickets before surging to a comprehensive nine-wicket victory in the opening cricket Test for a 1-0 lead in the four-match series here today.
Needing 77 runs to record their first win at this venue in seven years on a crumbling and dusty pitch, India achieved the target when they made 80 for one in 16.3 overs after lunch with more than half a day to spare.
Openers Virender Sehwag (25) and Cheteshwar Pujara (41 not out), who scored a double hundred in the huge first innings total of 521 for 8 declared, polished off the major part of the target by adding 57 runs in only 9.5 overs.
Earlier, left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha prised open the victory door for the hosts when he broke through England’s resolute batting by packing off overnight batsmen Matt Prior (91) and Alastair Cook (176) in 12 balls to virtually bring the visitors to their knees.
The two had kept England afloat yesterday with a determined partnership which had helped the visitors avoid an innings defeat and had raised their hopes of even saving the game. The pair remained unconquered last evening with the visitors on 340 for five, an overall lead of 10 runs.
Ojha’s two for 18 burst in 11 overs was complemented by Umesh Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin and Zaheer Khan who grabbed a wicket each as England slumped from 356 for five to 406 all out in just over 16 overs and in 113 minutes of play this morning.
Ojha, who grabbed 4 for 120 in the second innings to add to his superb haul of 5 for 45 in the first, emerged as the most successful bowler from the game. Pujara, who made an unbeaten 206 in the first essay and opened the innings in place of a bereaved Gautam Gambhir, was the most successful batsman for India.
In the second innings, Pujara and Virat Kohli (14 not out) steered Indian home without being separated.
Sehwag was caught just inside the long on rope by Kevin Pietersen off Graeme Swann after striking one four and a six in his 21-ball knock.
Kohli hit the winning run, a four off Swann, 51 minutes after lunch to seal victory while Pujara remained unconquered after facing 51 balls and striking eight fours. The victory broke the seven-year winless run for India at this ground. The team had last won here in December 2005, Sri Lanka being the losing side.
This was also their fourth win here in 12 encounters and their fifth in the last six Tests played at home going back to last season’s triumphant series against the West Indies.
The two teams will now proceed to Mumbai for the second Test at the Wankhede Stadium commencing on November 23, to be followed by the third and last Tests at Kolkata (Dec 5-9) and Nagpur (Dec 13-17).
England’s first innings collapse for 191 against Ojha and Ashwin was the root cause of their massive defeat though they fought back well through captain Alastair Cook who batted for a marathon 560 minutes spread over three days.
But once Ojha broke the partnership between Cook and Prior at 356, the England resistance started dwindling and the captain’s dismissal virtually ended it though the last three wickets put on 41 runs.
The visitors were all out seven minutes before the scheduled lunch interval, prompting an early break.
Ojha dealt the crucial blows on England in the space of only 12 balls, breaking the stubborn sixth-wicket stand between Cook and Prior. Umesh Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin and Zaheer Khan polished off the tail in style to leave the hosts a small target to chase.
Ojha finished with 4 for 120 after a fine morning spell of 2 for 18 in 11 overs. The visitors lost their last five wickets for the addition of 66 runs in 26.3 overs.
After being frustrated by Cook and Prior since the afternoon session yesterday, Ojha dismissed the two in superb fashion by deceiving both with his turn off the bowlers’ rough to prise open the doors of victory for India before lunch.
Yadav then packed off England vice captain Stuart Broad for 3 to leave the visitors tottering at 378 for 8 in their second innings, in effect 48 for 8 having conceded a 330-run first innings lead to the hosts.
Zaheer Khan ended the England innings by having Tim Bresnan (20 in 75 minutes) caught at short extra cover by substitute fielder Ajinkya Rahane.
This morning, Ojha dislodged Prior by accepting the return catch and then struck the biggest blow to the English hopes by clean bowling Cook.
India opened this morning with Zaheer keeping it tight from one end and Ojha attacking at the other and the move paid off in grand style after 35 minutes with the left arm spinner striking two body blows on England.
First he made Prior drive on the up a sharply turning ball that seemed to stop a bit on pitching to accept the easy return catch with the fourth ball of his third over of the morning.
The England stumper had stayed at the wicket for 240 minutes and faced 225 balls in which he hit 11 fours. He also put on 157 runs for the sixth wicket with his captain in 364 balls, the partnership starting yesterday after lunch and ending this morning.
Cook’s defiant knock, that had commenced two days ago in the afternoon session and lasted the entire day yesterday, finally ended 55 minutes after start of play on the last day.
India 1st innings: 521/8d
England 1st innings: 191
England 2nd innings (following on) : Cook b Ojha 176, Compton lbw b Khan 37, Trott c Dhoni b Ojha 17, Pietersen b Ojha 2, Bell lbw b Yadav 22, Patel lbw b Yadav 0, Prior c & b Ojha 91, Bresnan c sub (AM Rahane) b Khan 20, Broad c & b Yadav 3, Swann b Ashwin 17, Anderson not out 0. Extras: (B-14, LB-6, W-1) 21. Total: (all out in 154.3 overs) 406. Fall of wickets: 1-123, 2-156, 3-160, 4-199, 5-199, 6-356, 7-365, 8-378, 9-406, 10-406. Bowling: Yadav 23-2-70-3, Ojha 55-16-120-4, Ashwin 43-9-111-1, Sehwag 1-0-1-0, Khan 27.3-5-59-2, Tendulkar 1-0-8-0, Yuvraj 4-0-17-0.
India (2nd innings): Sehwag c Pietersen b Swann 25, Pujara not out 41, Virat not out 14. Total: (for 1 wkt, in 16.3 overs) 80. Fall of wicket: 1-57. Bowling: James Anderson 2-0-10-0, Graeme Swann 7.3-1-46-1, Samit Patel 6-0-24-0.