A brilliant effort, no doubt


THE England captain Nasser Hussain announced his good form with a fine 155 in the first npower Test. His captaincy also came in for praise after England wrecked a strong Indian batting line-up. His team won the Test series opener with more than three hours to spare on the final day.

-N. SRIDHARAN Nasser Hussain drives Anil Kumble to the fence. The England captain came up with a match-winning 155.

Nasser Hussain drives Anil Kumble to the fence. The England captain came up with a match-winning 155.

Hussain, who considered Sachin Tendulkar as the major hurdle, formulated a plan and dismissed him cheaply. Steve Waugh and coach John Buchanan tried to check Tendulkar, but the Indian batsman scored heavily against Australia. In recent times, Carl Hooper and coach Roger Harper succeeded to an extent to curtail Tendulkar's free flow. But the batting maestro still managed to make runs against the West Indies.

Two century-makers, John Crawley and Michael Vaughan, scored at a brisk rate in the second essay.-N. SRIDHARAN

But it is the Hussain-Duncan Fletcher plan which has worked very well so far. England's tactical move, to contain Tendulkar, has evoked much debate and argument. Hussain and England did not let Tendulkar enjoy his tenure in the middle at Lord's. They got him for 16 and 12. His scores against England, at home, were 88, 103, 26, 90.

Tendulkar's failure to dominate Hussain's England was the highlight of the first Test match at Lord's. In fact, this Test was dominated by the home team. Hussain took the spotlight, first as a batsman (155 runs, 458m, 331b, 25x4) and thereafter as captain, marshaling his resources to the hilt. There were centuries from Michael Vaughan (100, 218m, 141b, 11x4), John Crawley (100 not out, 190m, 132b, 8x4) in the second innings, both making the three-figure mark in over three hours, and also from Ajit Agarkar who made it memorable at Lord's on the fifth day.

Matthew Hoggard exults after taking the prize-wicket of Sachin Tendulkar in India's second innings.-N. SRIDHARAN

The battle between Tendulkar and England - led by a man who is now compared with Douglas Jardine of the 'bodyline' fame, Hussain - was always on the cards. Hussain said on the eve of the match that the 'Giles line of attack' will not work against Tendulkar on the Lord's pitch. But he and Duncan Fletcher worked out a strategy which was evident in the first hour of the third-day morning, when Andrew Flintoff and debutant fast bowler Simon Jones operated from the Pavilion and NatWest Media Centre ends.

England was without Darren Gough, Andrew Caddick and Alex Tudor. Sourav Ganguly had said before the start of the NatWest series that someone will come and do the job for England. Though Ganguly's prediction did not come true during the one-day tri-series, it happened in the first Test at Lord's. The bowlers who frustrated Tendulkar were Flintoff, who had taken six wickets in the three Tests played in India, and Jones.

Simon Jones has just dismissed Ajay Ratra, cheaply, in the first innings.-N. SRIDHARAN

Flintoff and Jones made Tendulkar's life miserable for 96 minutes, bowling at his body, before Craig White's widish delivery lured the ace batsman to his doom. Tendulkar looked to be in control of things in the second innings, but he was not at his fluent best. He did hit Jones for two fours, but Matthew Hoggard got the better of him. He had batted for eight minutes short of an hour.

Everything went according to the plan for England, after Hussain played the lead role. Left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan dismissed Vaughan off his fifth ball. Hussain, who got support from Crawley, stabilised the innings. Agarkar struck two blows and England was 357 for 7, but thereafter the team added another 130 runs. The last five batsmen made 185 runs; Flintoff 59, White 53, Giles 19, Jones 44 and Hoggard 10 not out.

Ajit Agarkar, coming in at No. 8, scored a century in the second essay. But his effort went in vain.-N. SRIDHARAN

For India, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid were doing their best after the fall of Wasim Jaffer's wicket. Things looked bright, but Sehwag (84, 150m, 96b, 10x4) got carried away and paid the price.

The rest of the Indian batting folded up for 93 runs with Dravid making 46 and Venkatsai Laxman remaining undefeated on 43. "I think we lost the match when we're bowled out for 221. We should have been more disciplined," said Ganguly. Hussain only agreed with Ganguly's point of view.

Hussain did not enforce the follow-on. A decision which was not criticised. It helped Vaughan, to get into his groove, and Crawley, who was recalled to play only his second Test match in four years. England set a target of 568, Hussain declaring after Crawley reached his century. Both Vaughan and Crawley scored at a brisk rate and gave the English bowlers more than five sessions to bowl India out.

V. V. S. Laxman drives Ashley Giles to the fence on the final day. He played his part with a fighting 74. Laxman made an unbeaten 43 in the first innings.-N. SRIDHARAN

Wasim Jaffer and Sehwag put on 61 for the first wicket and Dravid again kept the England fast bowlers at bay. But two wickets off two balls to Hoggard - Tendulkar and Ganguly - made certain that England would romp home a winner by a big margin. The 126-run stand between Laxman (74, 183m, 120b, 9x4) and Agarkar delayed England's celebration.

Not many have made a hundred coming in at No. 8. Agarkar, who played straight, did not chance his arm. "He always had the potential. Hopefully this innings will give him the confidence," said India's coach John Wright. Agarkar batted for a little short of four hours to make 109 with 16 fours.

"It was difficult and all credit to the bowlers. I hope they do it on a regular basis. Their test will come when one of them - Tendulkar or Ganguly or Dravid - score a big century. This is the best batting I have come up against," said Hussain.

The scores: England 487 (M.Butcher 29, N. Hussain 155, J. Crawley 64, A. Flintoff 59, C. White 53, S. Jones 44, Zaheer 3-90, Kumble 3-128) and 301 for 6 decl. (M. Vaughan 100, J. Crawley 100 n.o., A. Stewart 33, Kumble 3-84) beat India 221 (V. Sehwag 84, R. Dravid 46, VVS. Laxman 43 n.o., Hoggard 3-33) and 397 (W. Jaffer 53, V. Sehwag 27, R. Dravid 63, VVS. Laxman 74, A. Agarkar 109 n.o., Hoggard 4-87)

A DAY before the NatWest Trophy final, Nasser Hussain received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) at the Buckingham Palace for his outstanding contribution to English cricket. He has proved himself to be a leader of men. England lost the NatWest final in spite of Hussain scoring his first hundred in 72 one-day internationals.

Outraged by the comments made by a section of the press, that included former England players like Ian Botham and Bob Willis, who had raised doubts about Hussain's ability as a batsman at No. 3, the England skipper reacted strongly. His reaction again came in for criticism.

Three weeks later, England was applauding the same man for his brilliant effort with the bat in the first Test at Lord's and his overall contribution as captain. England won the Test by 170 runs and perhaps the only man in contention for the Man of the Match award was Hussain.

Naturally, the adjudicator had considered the importance of Hussain's 155 made in the first innings. He had the task of stabilising the England batting when he took guard at 0 for 1 after India's Zaheer Khan had dismissed opener Michael Vaughan off the eleventh ball on the first day of the Test. After that early setback, Hussain was in full control of the match, first warding off further dangers from the Indian bowlers and then consolidating his team's position before England reached a near 500 total that was good enough to put pressure on the Indian batsmen.

Those who followed the India-England Test series in India, during last Christmas, will remember Hussain's tactics to contain India's master batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, denying him free-scoring opportunities, employing a negative attack. Hussain instructed left-arm spinner Ashley Giles to bowl from over the wicket and pitch the ball well outside the leg stump. His tactics were unacceptable for many. But Hussain carried on with his strategy and succeeded in checking Tendulkar to a great extent.

Now, Hussain introduced a different plan in the first Test at Lord's. He did not allow Tendulkar to settle down to the conventional line of attack. He instructed his seamers to bowl around the wicket, to a set-field at forward and backward short legs. Not many argued against this method of attack this time.

He put pressure on Tendulkar and won the battle. He used Andrew Flintoff and newcomer Simon Jones for a specific purpose, to check Tendulkar's flow, and they executed that to perfection. It was Craig White who got Tendulkar's wicket in the first innings, but it was Flintoff and Jones who did the spade work.

Hussain did not let loose his grip at any stage of the match. There were fine batting efforts from Vaughan and John Crawley and also from seamer Matthew Hoggard, who dismissed Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in the second innings. But when it came to picking the man for the prestigious award, Man of the Match, there was no one who had better credentials on that day than the England captain. Hussain deserved it.