Sehwag returns with a run-a-ball ton, keeps India ahead on day one
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It was a short ball from Tim Bresnan; a half-tracker, a long-hop. But instead of rising to 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 over two years ago.That Bresnan delivery wasn't the first to keep low that morning. It wasn't exactly a difficult wicket to bat on, but it was the sort of wicket on which runs would have to be eked out with a patient, no-frills approach. 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.
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 ball wasn't coming onto his bat; often, it stopped on him or kept low, and short cover crouched in front of him, waiting for anything uppish. 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, leaving Alastair Cook clueless about where to place his third man.
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