9:28pm Thursday 21st July 2011
INDIA suffered a potentially crushing blow on a rain-shortened first day of the historic 2000th Test against England at Lord's, with star bowler Zaheer Khan's participation in the match in serious doubt.
The spearhead of the touring attack bowled beautifully on day one of the series opener, giving away nothing and taking both wickets as the hosts moved to 127 for two before heavy rain brought an end to proceedings after 49.2 overs.
But he left the pitch midway through his 14th over, nursing an apparent hamstring strain and did not re-emerge.
Zaheer removed both England openers but Jonathan Trott survived two chances to reach 58 not out alongside Kevin Pietersen, who looked out of touch but survived to make 22no.
England opted to retain the services of Stuart Broad for the match, preferring him to Tim Bresnan, who headed back to Yorkshire to take part in the Roses clash, while India selected Suresh Raina in place of Yuvraj Singh.
That call could yet haunt India if Zaheer is ruled out, with Yuvraj's left-arm spin an option they could end up missing.
Having won the toss and opted to bowl, there were encouraging early signs for the Indian seamers, with Zaheer's first ball moving significantly into Andrew Strauss and Praveen Kumar finding some lavish swing from the Pavilion End.
Alastair Cook got the first runs of the day, cutting for four as Praveen dropped short at the start of his second over.
The left-handed pair had just survived the 10-over mark when Zaheer trapped Cook lbw on the crease.
Asad Rauf rightly gave the verdict and, with no DRS on leg before decisions in this series, Cook was on his way for 12 - a rare failure for a player in the form of his life.
Strauss, who had one near miss from a run out, scored his first boundary after 48 balls off Ishant Sharma, with new man Trott also finding the ropes following another loose delivery from the wayward seamer.
Spinner Harbhajan Singh was given the 19th over and almost saw off Trott with his first ball, which went straight on and took the edge. Rahul Dravid, at slip, did not get down quick enough and the chance went begging.
After a low-key first session, England were 43 for one.
The pace of the match started to pick up after lunch, with Trott thick-edging one through the vacant third slip area for four to bring up the 50, while Sharma continued to lose his line on the Lord's slope.
A handful of extras boosted the England tally but then Strauss undid 25 overs of watchful work by looking to pull a Zaheer bouncer from outside off stump.
He was hurried for pace and top edged it low on the bat, giving Sharma a simple catch at fine leg and departing for 22.
It would be stretching to call it a continuation of Strauss' struggles against left-armers, but it was a poor stroke nonetheless.
Zaheer, who boasted remarkable figures of two for nine after 11 overs, thought he had Trott caught behind two balls later but there was no nick.
Pietersen endured a nervy start, taking 14 balls to get off the mark and looking ill at ease as Sharma tightened up his line.
Trott and Pietersen left the ball well but both sides looked cagey and neither looked minded to take an attacking step.
Zaheer had bowled 33 consecutive dot balls when he finally located Trott's edge, only for the ball to squirm between wicketkeeper and first slip. Either Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Dravid might have pouched it but neither man put a hand on it to give Trott a second life on 32.
A single off the next ball took England past three figures, but worse was to follow for India when Zaheer pulled up with what looked to be a hamstring injury and left the field in some discomfort.
Trott eased Harbhajan for four through the covers as England attempted to break the shackles, but Pietersen almost perished to a rash stroke, skying one just over mid-on off the spinner.
Trott's 50 came up off 89 balls before dark skies took the teams off for an early tea.
Heavy rain led to a two-and-a-half-hour delay and just as the Indian side came back out to take the field a new batch of drizzle saw play abandoned.
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