London: England took the early honours in the first test against India at Lord’s on Thursday before the rain which blighted the series against Sri Lanka again had the final say.
No play was possible after tea in the 2,000th test and the 100th between the two countries with England finishing on 127 for two after being asked to bat by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Jonathan Trott, the most fluent of the England batsmen in testing conditions with the ball swinging late under heavy cloud cover, was on 58 after surviving two difficult chances while Kevin Pietersen had reached 22 from 73 balls.
Openers Andrew Strauss (22) and Alastair Cook (12) were both dismissed by the excellent Zaheer Khan, who bent the ball late in the air and off the pitch. The left-arm pace bowler had taken two for 18 from 13.3 overs when he strained a hamstring and left the field during the afternoon session.
An Indian team official said Zaheer had been examined by the medical team and a statement about his condition would probably be issued before Friday morning.
In his absence, the backup bowling was not of the same calibre in conditions offering plenty of assistance to swing and seam bowlers and Trott and Pietersen extended their third-wicket partnership to 65 from 149 balls.
The rain, which had held off after early morning showers delayed the start by 30 minutes, then swept over Lord’s and umpires Billy Bowden and Asad Rauf finally called play off for the day with only 49.2 of the allotted 90 overs completed.
India began with three maiden overs before Cook edged the 19th ball of the innings to the third-man boundary. But the prolific England left-hander was unable to reproduce his heroics of the Lord’s test against Sri Lanka, when he scored 96 and 106, falling lbw pushing forward to Zaheer.
The Decision Review System (DRS) for lbws is not being used in this series after India refused to agree to ball-tracking technology although television replays showed Cook would not have been successful even if he had had the right to appeal.
Strauss should have been run out on three when Ishant Sharma missed a shy at the stumps at the bowler’s end when the England captain was short of his ground after being sent back by Cook.
Ten minutes before lunch Rahul Dravid, who holds the world record for test catches, failed to grasp a sharp chance at slip from Trott on eight off Harbhajan Singh’s first delivery.
When play resumed after the interval, Strauss, after 107 minutes of resolute defence, reached for a short ball from Zaheer outside his off stump and skied an attempted hook to Sharma who did not have to move at fine-leg.
Sharma, bowling to three slips, pitched the ball wide to the new batsman Pietersen who refused to be tempted. He took 14 balls before he got off the mark with a squeezed single to leg.
Trott clipped Sharma to the mid-wicket boundary and collected another boundary through the covers off Praveen Kumar.
He brought up his seventh test half-century from 89 balls with eight fours after receiving another life on 32 when a catchable edge flew between wicketkeeper Dhoni and Dravid to the boundary.
Indian coach Duncan Fletcher told a news conference the team would have been happier with three rather than two wickets after deciding to field first.
“Two indicated that we could probably have bowled better lengths,” he said. “With the ball swinging about it was probably difficult for some of the bowlers to get their lines right. They probably realised that some of those lengths were a little bit short.”