Murali Vijay’s century is the perfect inspiration for India’s inexperienced batting line-up to take the attack to England, says Nasser Hussain.
Vijay's fourth Test hundred was the cornerstone of the tourists’ total of 259-4 on the opening day of the first Test at Trent Bridge, the opener striking 20 fours and a six off 294 balls.
India, beaten 4-0 by England three years ago, have not won an overseas Test since 2011 but Hussain told Sky Sports that this squad has the talent and firepower to propel the side back to winning ways.
“There’s a lot of competition in this young batting line-up and Virat Kohli will be sitting there thinking ‘crikey, Murali Vijay got a hundred, I want one’ as will Shikhar Dhawan,” said the former England skipper.
“If everyone’s failing then the danger is to think ‘we can’t get runs in England’ but now someone is showing them you can go out there and bat all day. They are very hungry for runs.
“Vijay looks a very good player. The one thing that keeps all of the Indian batsmen going is that they know that England haven’t got a frontline spinner.
“There were periods when they did get into their shell and the run-rate dropped but they knew at some stage Cook was going to have to go to Moeen Ali and as soon as he was going at four or five an over and that gets you going again and, also, Stokes is more of a batting all-rounder.
“I thought Cook and England worked hard – you can’t fault them - but there is still a slight issue with the balance of the side.
“In the last 18 months we’ve been critical of their catching but I thought they caught well; at Headingley we were critical of their body language, but that was excellent; at times Matt Prior’s keeping hasn’t been great, but he kept brilliantly today; the communication between the bowlers and the captain was very good.”
Vijay shared an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 81 with his captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (50no) to help India – at one stage 107-3 – regroup after losing Ajinkya Rahane for 32.
Dhoni, promoted up to six in the order, started cautiously but posted his fifty off just 64 balls and Hussain says England must not give India’s skipper licence to take the game away from them on day two.
“I can’t imagine Dhoni ever blocking unless the situation demanded that. But if it is there to hit he will hit it,” he said.
“He’s got such an unusual technique. He’s got such strong forearms that he just flicks his hands at the ball and it seems to disappear.
“He has struggled at times away from India, away from the sub-continent, but on a pitch like this he was always going to dominate.
“He could be very dangerous tomorrow batting with the tail. He might play one way today but if he bats with the tail he will tee off.”
England went into the series on the back of a 1-0 defeat to Sri Lanka, played on flat pitches at Lord’s and Headingley and Hussain said that Trent Bridge groundsman Steve Birks had done the seamers few favours by preparing a ‘lifeless pitch’.
“Someone picking up a paper might say ‘259-4, that’s an excellent day for India, what were England doing?’ Well, the pitch won that contest today,” he reflected.
“Groundsmen are like anyone – like commentators, like players they make mistakes; they are not perfect and he’s got it slightly wrong here.
“I think he said in his statement that now he would probably have liked to have left a little bit more grass on it.
“I’m not one for over-doing home advantage and saying ‘we must have a lot of grass on it’ because that brings India into it a little bit, like when England played on an absolute dust bowl in Mumbai that brought Swann and Panesar into it.
“But what you want is a pitch with a lot of pace and a lot of carry and this pitch certainly did not have that. It was lifeless.”
Watch day two of the first Test between England and India live on Sky Sports 2 from 10am on Thursday.
To hear more from Nasser check out the latest Sky Cricket Podcast here.