Graeme Swann helped England restore parity on Day 1 of the opening Test against India at Motera on Thursday. The spinner struck at regular intervals to finish with figures of four for 85 and keep the visitors in the game after Virender Sehwag slammed his first century in two years.
Playing his 99th Test, the 34-year-old opener from Delhi blasted his way to a run-a-ball 117, his 23rd ton, which was studded with 16 fours and a six. It was his first century since November 2010, in the first Test against New Zealand at the same venue.
Later, Cheteshwar Pujara (98 not out) put the home team in control midway through the day, taking the English bowling to the cleaners. It would have been a lost cause for England had Swann underperformed.
India dominated the morning session and much of the second session. Thanks to Sehwag, who came into the game after scoring a century in the Ranji Trophy game against Uttar Pradesh at Ghaziabad, they scored 120 runs in the first session without loss and added 130 in the second for the loss three wickets on a wicket offering low bounce and slow turn.
However, Swann's strikes helped the visitors pull things back towards the end of the day's play. In fact, India's performance in the final session was in complete contrast to the first two and an apt indicator how effectively Swann had bowled.
At stumps, the hosts were 323 for 4, with Pujara two runs short of what will be a well-deserved hundred, and Yuvraj Singh unbeaten on 24.
Morning session (120 runs, 28 overs, 0 wickets)
Batting first after winning the toss, India got off to a sedate start. Sehwag cut loose in James Anderson's fourth over, helping himself to three boundaries.
He, along with Delhi teammate Gambhir, helped the hosts start well. The 50-run partnership was achieved in the 12th over.
Sehwag continued with his aggression and completed his 33rd Test fifty with a single off Swann. He celebrated the feat with a couple of boundaries and a six in three successive deliveries off Bresnan.
Coincidentally, Sehwag's last Test hundred (173) came against New Zealand at this venue in 2010.
Sehwag's aggression helped the hosts reach the 100-run mark in the 20th over. It was the 15th century opening stand for India against England and the second between Sehwag and Gambhir after the 117-run stand in Chennai in 2008.
The Delhi duo, under fire after their recent poor run with the blade, responded to their critics in grand style. The hosts were 120 without loss at lunch (after 28 overs), with Sehwag batting on a well-made 79; giving him company was Gambhir, on 37.
Anderson and Bresnan were treated with absolute disdain in the morning session, both going in excess of six runs per over.
Post-Lunch session (130 runs, 30 overs, three wickets)
England struck early in the second session, Swann providing the breakthrough in the second over after resumption.
Gambhir was fortunate when Matt Prior missed an easy stumping chance off the second ball. However, Swann had the last laugh, getting through the left-hander's defence three balls later.
Gambhir's 111-ball 45 was inclusive of four boundaries; he and Sehwag put on 134 runs for the opening wicket. For the record, it was the pair's first century stand since the Centurion Test against South Africa in 2010.
Pujara came in next, and was fortunate (on nine) when his top edge off Bresnan was misjudged by Anderson at mid-on.
Sehwag, though, reached his 23rd Test ton in empathic manner, lofting Swann over mid-on for a boundary. It was the 34-year-old's first Test hundred in exactly two years, his last (a magnificent 173) having come against New Zealand at the same venue.
It was also Sehwag's second Test hundred against England, coming a decade after he scored his first -- a 104 at Trent Bridge, in 2002. For those into statistics, it was his 13th century on Indian soil, only three batsmen having done better.
Pujara then hit a boundary off Bresnan and followed it up with a couple, the latter helping raise the 50-run stand for the second wicket.
The Saurashtra batsman scored a well-deserved half century, his second in Tests -- after his 72 on debut against Australia in Bangalore, with a couple off Broad.
Swann, however, returned to provide England their second breakthrough, getting through Sehwag's defence. The 34-year-old's run-a-ball 117 was inclusive of 15 boundaries and a six and he put on 90 runs for the second wicket with Pujara.
Sachin Tendulkar (13) did not survive for long, Swann having him caught by Samir Patel for his third wicket.
Post-tea session (73 runs, 32 overs, 1 wicket)
It took Virat Kohli 29 balls to get off the mark, but he did so in style, with an on-drive off Broad. In the next over by Swann he was fortunate to survive as Jonathan Trott messed up an easy chance at first slip.
However, Swann had the last laugh. He returned to end Kohli's ordeal, cleaning him up with a straighter one.
Kohli scored a 67-ball 19, and with Pujara added 33 runs for the fourth wicket.
Pujara and Yuvraj Singh (24 not out) ensured there was no further damage, the two having put on 36 runs in an unbroken fifth wicket stand.
England took the second new ball in the 87th over but failed to effect another breakthrough.
Photograph: Julian Herbert/Getty Images