If you were one of those who followed the first test over the last five days, you will have no doubts whatsoever in your mind that England was the better of the two sides and India kept playing catch up all the time, only to succumb before the sun had set on the pristine turf at Lords.
It had started on the first day itself when England was put into bat when the clouds were thick and India wanted to make first use of the conditions to their favour. It was not to be as the four pronged Indian attack was reduced to three when Zak limped off the field clutching his hammy. In one stroke of ill luck, India were pushed onto backfoot, and chased the red cherry all over the park with Kevin Pieterson making merry and short work of some friendly fare dished out by the three man Indian attack, supported for a short while by MSD. In the final analysis that knock proved to be the difference between the draw and loss for India. Win of course was out of question.
It wasn't Kevin alone. On day 4, when England looked in bit of a trouble with Ishant finding elusive rhythm over a period of some sensational fast bowling, Prior (103*) and Broad (74*) put their hand up to resurrect the England innings from a perilous 130 odd for 6. Ishant had bowled with a lot of fire to take a page from Broad's book to bowl full and mix it up with some peppery short stuff to create a semblance of chance for India. It was not to be as Harbhajan struggled to keep the pressure up and Ishant tired out after a marathon spell of 11 overs claiming three in the first session. From thereon it was a Prior and Broad show on the Broadway of Lord's. India had a mammoth task of chasing 458 with well over four sessions remaining to play out for a draw. Well that was the only positive result likely for India. England was moving in for the kill.
India has shown a penchant to fightback from unlikely spots in recent times with someone or other putting a hand up to save the day when the going got tough. But this England bowling attack was equal to the task. The signs were ominous for India after Gambhir was injured fielding at short leg and Tendulkar was out with a viral fever for the entire of day 4 and could bat down the order on the final day.
Anderson led the attack superbly to claim a fifer that he will cherish for a long time. He removed Dravid with an out swinger early in the day and then kept a tight leash on Tendulkar throughout his stay at crease. On the other end runs were hard to come by and threat of wicket loomed large all the time. Even the sublime Laxman was fooled into a needless pull scoring a resilient but inadequate 56. Dhoni's troubles as a captain followed Dhoni the batsman and he perished after poking at a delivery outside off stump to Prior. It was a matter of time from thereon.
In a losing cause, Raina decided to bring out the choicest of strokes in his armour to score a glorious a half century, which he will remember for the occasion, if not for the end result itself. Indians tried their best to hang in, only to see them slip inch by inch into the deep abyss of defeat as the day progressed.
England combined the fine all-round show with some good luck to gain the one up advantage over India. As a captain Strauss has reasons to believe that he has the best bowling resources to decimate the best batting line-up in the world and the competent batting unit to take full advantage of any largesse by the opposition bowling.
Dhoni's men now face an uphill task ahead of them. The first test has opened the potential of this English line-up to him. Bhajji's lack of wickets, injury to Zak and Gambhir, Tendulkar's tentativeness (or the burden of the 100th every time he walks into bat) and his own batting form will be some of the issues that he will have to address when India walk in for the next test on Friday. He doesn't have to look further for inspiration. It was Stuart Broad, the man everybody raised their eyebrows on, who came to the party with a fine all-round performance to clinch the 2000th test for the nation who gave cricket to the world, at the home of cricket.
As the number one test team India have the knowhow and pedigree required to come back from the brinks. They have shown the penchant to fight and have held better than most of the Indian visiting sides. The next three tests will prove whether they can hold their own against a team that threatens to take over the mantle of number one. It will make for a gripping watch.
PS: Who is your MoM? I thought Broad had an upper hand over KP. He will sure be chuffed at the panel apart from the guys who dropped so many catches off his bowling to deny him a fifer.