Pujara, Ojha help India beat England by nine wickets

Ahmedabad: 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 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, 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. PTI

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 23 November, to be followed by the third and last Tests at Kolkata (5-9 Dec) and Nagpur (13-17 Dec).

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.

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.

At Cook's dismissal, England were just 35 runs ahead of the hosts with three wickets in hand and their first defeat in the four-game series loomed large. And it was also the 26-year-old Ojha's fourth wicket of the innings and ninth of the match.

The visitors lost three wickets for the addition of 22 runs in seven overs to leave India on the doorsteps of their first victory at this venue after December 2005 when they defeated Sri Lanka by 259 runs, and their 4th here in 12 Tests.

Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan got together to put on 28 valuable runs before the former's off stump sent back by Ashwin as he tried to reverse sweep the off spinner to leave England 76 runs ahead overall.

Ashwin, wicket less in the second innings after his three-wicket haul in the first, was brought on in place of Ojha after the 23rd over, 25 minutes before the end of the first session after the left arm spinner was carted for a six by Swann.

PTI

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