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India cannot afford to lose Zaheer

India suffered a major blow on the first day of the Lords test after bowling spearhead Zaheer Khan strained his hamstring and had to leave the field in middle of his spell during England’s first innings. It could prove to be a major setback for India after looking at the way Zaheer troubled the England batsmen on a rain curtailed first day.

Zaheer Khan went off the field midway through the third over of his third spell.

Zaheer hobbed off the field during the 42nd over of the match with what looked like cramps at that moment, after bowling 13.3 exquisite overs for 18 runs and dismissing both the England openers. He was attended to by the Indian team physio, Anirudha Chaudhary, but he did not confirm if Zaheer left the ground to undergo any scans.

“Zaheer Khan is being looked after by a medical team. It was a strain on the hamstring and he is undergoing investigation,” said Chaudhary, after the first day’s play at Lord’s was called off after 49.2 overs due to rain.

Meanwhile, Duncan Fletcher, the India coach, was also not too sure on how long Zaheer would be out for. “It was quite a loss for us at that stage as he could’ve got us that third wicket and even more the way he was bowling,” he said.

Earlier, Dhoni won the toss and put England into bat on a pitch which had a slight tinge of green and with an overcast sky overhead, he would have hoped that his opening bowlers, Zaheer and Praveen, could make use of the friendly conditions and make some early inroads into England’s batting and justify his decision of putting the opposition in.

As the match began, Praveen had trouble getting his lengths right in his first spell and kept pitching the ball in good length areas on a wicket where the ball should have been pitched further up to make utmost use of the swinging conditions, maybe due to the reason he that he lacked adequate knowledge of bowling in English conditions. But  Zaheer, who has had a stint with English county Worcestershire in 2006, bought all his experience of bowling in England into play and troubled the England batsmen with his accuracy and swing.

In his first spell of this tour, he kept both England’s left-hand opening batsmen guessing and bowled impeccable lines and lengths which made him unplayable at times. Inform batsmen Alistier Cook became Zaheer’ first victim after he drew Cook out by bowling outswingers and then suddenly darted one into him. He then caught Cook off guard with a delivery that straightened on leg stump getting him trapped leg before wicket.

Zaheer soon understood that it was a slow wicket and he has to bowl a fuller length. He kept teasing Strauss with variations in lengths, keeping the England captain vigilant. He had a deep square leg for Strauss for most of his innings but bowled only two bouncers. During his second spell just after lunch, he bowled a steep bouncer at Strauss which hurried him into a pull shot, and dismissed Strauss caught at deep square leg by Sharma.

Later, he went around the wicket during his third spell and shaped one away off the seam to Trott squaring him up, getting the outside edge, but some late swing did both in Dhoni and Dravid as they misjudged a regulation catch and giving a lease of life to Trott. Trott was looking solid at that moment and his wicket would have given Zaheer his third and would have certainly provided India the upper hand.

Zaheer is a wily customer who tests the batmen’s patience and never rushes into getting them out. His biggest virtue is his patience and is always willing to play the waiting game. If India has to hold onto their position as the number 1 ranked test team, they need a fit Zaheer Khan back as soon as possible

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