The first over of the Oval Test Match was bowled by Rudra Pratap Singh, a left arm seamer who plays Ranji Trophy Cricket for Uttar Pradesh. 3 years ago, he took a 5 wicket haul at Lord's. He is one of those rare bowlers who looks innocous, but still gets wickets. His Test career was cut short, I suspect, by his propensity to leak runs. RP has taken a Test wicket every 58 balls, but also conceded 4 an over in his first 13 Tests before the present one. He last played a first class game in the Duleep Trophy, January 26-29, 2011. His team was thrashed by 552 runs. He last played a 50 over match on March 8, 2011 in the Deodhar Trophy. His team lost that game by 5 wickets. Since March 8, 2011 to August 18, 2011, he has only played 14 IPL games, the last one was played on May 18, 2011. Not surprisingly, his first over, and India's first over in the Oval Test, was (as recorded by Cricinfo's ball by ball commentary) as follows:
Singh to Strauss, no run, 77.5 mph, RP starts with a leg-side Harmison, but not at the same pace. He ambles in and lets a loosener go down leg side, Dhoni has to tumble to his right and collect on the second bounce. There's no place for a loosener in Test cricket. Do it in the warm-ups.
There's some sightscreen trouble already. Some latecomers finding seats behind the bowler's arm. And they keep on coming.
Singh to Strauss, 2 runs, 77.9 mph, RP Singh's line is nice and friendly, on middle and leg, Strauss turns it off his pads towards fine leg
And the loiterers continue loitering behind the sight screen. Strauss is annoyed but manages a smile before taking guard.
Singh to Strauss, no run, 79.4 mph, another gentle delivery down leg side, Strauss lets it go, it pitches again before reaching Dhoni
Singh to Strauss, 1 run, 80.8 mph, better line and length just outside off from over the wicket, but there's no pace or bounce, Strauss pushes towards cover and runs
Singh to Cook, 1 run, 82.3 mph, the leg-side buffet continues, Cook glances a length ball off his hips towards long leg
Singh to Strauss, no run, 78.1 mph, another ball down leg side and Strauss lets it go. I have not seen an opening over with lower intensity in a Test match
4 out of 6 balls drifting onto the pads, or past them. No real pace, just slow-medium stuff. This is what Abhinav Mukund and Ajinkya Rahane face day in and day out in the Ranji Trophy.
In this Oval Test Match, India are playing with only their 2nd and 3rd seamers and support spinners. Their record suggests that an average Test team (not England playing in England) should bat at least 200 overs in the Test Match and score over 770 runs before these bowlers take 20 Test wickets. This England side comes into this game having score 517/1, 620/5, 513, 644, 496/5, 486, 335/7, 377/8, 474/8, 544, and 710/7 in 11 of their last 16 innings. In one other innings they made 269/6 in a third innings declaration.
But lets be generous to our bowlers. Lets say they'll take 20 wickets for 800 runs. What are the chances of India winning the Oval Test if the opposition scores 800 runs? Lets see. Teams have made 800 or more runs in a Test 85 times in 2004 Tests. These teams have won 34 of these 85 Tests. Only 4 teams have lost despite having made 800 runs in a Test. The last of two these involved Bradman. Australia beat England at Lord's in 1930, despite making 425 all out and 375 all out in their two innings. Australia, who batted second, replied with 729/6 declared thanks to an opening stand of 162 between Woodfull and Ponsford, which was followed by one of 231 between Bradman and Ponsford. Bradman made 254, Ponsford 155. 18 years later, Australia beat England again, this time at Leeds. England made 496 all out and 365/8 declared. They actually took a first innings lead of 38, but then, chasing 404, Bradman and Arthur Morris added 301 on the last day, and Australia won by 7 wickets. In this game, Len Hutton and Cyril Washbrook set England up with an opening stand of 168 against Lindwall and Miller.
Since over rates have declined to 15 an hour (at best), making 800 runs in a match has become less frequent, as has losing after making those many runs.
But forget all this. Doesn't 375 all out, or 425 all out, or even 496 all out, sound optimistic for this Indian bowling attack against this English batting line up?