NOTTINGHAM - India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni insists he wants his side exposed to classic English conditions during the remainder of the tourists' five-match series after the first Test at Trent Bridge ended in stalemate.
On a pitch that was arguably slower and lower than many Indian surfaces, the tourists ground out a draw against England in the first Test at Trent Bridge on Sunday. For the first time in 137 years of Test cricket both teams saw their last-wicket pair enjoy three-figure partnerships, with England's Joe Root (154 not out) and James Anderson (81) sharing a Test record tenth-wicket stand of 198, eclipsing the 111 put on earlier in the match by India's Bhuvneshwar Kumar (58) and Mohammed Shami (51 not out).
Primarily a seam bowler, Kumar was 63 not out in India's second innings, having twice improved his highest Test score this match, as the tourists batted through the whole of Sunday's final day for a total of 391 for nine declared. In between, Kumar took a Test-best five for 82 in England's 496 after finding some rare movement on a deadening pitch that made life exceptionally tough for the quicker bowlers. India have only won three Test series in England, in 1971, 1986 and 2007, while Sunday's result made it 15 consecutive Test without an away win.
But after a match where the pitch did little for either side, Dhoni insisted he wanted to see a different environment at Lord's, where the second Test starts on Thursday. "I always said that when you come to a country you want to play on a wicket that is the speciality of that country," Dhoni told reporters. "There's no fun in going to India and having a flat wicket where people can score 200 or 250 runs, but it's very good if you score a hundred on a turning track," the wicketkeeper-batsman explained.
"England is not known for fast wickets but here it's more about swing and overcast conditions, and that's the speciality here. "It is more about swing. That's what you want to see." His comments were echoed by England captain Alastair Cook. "We can score heavy runs once we get in, and we know we can put their top order under pressure. We just need a pitch with a bit of life in it," Cook said.
Yet even in conditions that might have been designed to induce a nervous breakdown among the seamers -- and for which Trent Bridge groundsman Steve Birks apologised -- England still managed to collapse to 202 for seven in reply to India's first innings 457. And Cook admitted that England had been fortunate in the way Root and Anderson turned the tide. "We dragged ourselves out of a hole," he said. "In this game we had a poor session when we lost six wickets. "It was an outstanding hundred from Root and with Jimmy to have got 80-something. I didn't see it coming, but thank goodness he got it."
This result meant England had now gone nine Tests without a win -- their worst run since they failed to enjoy a victory during 10 consecutive Tests from 1992 to 1993. One major concern for Cook was that, in being bowled off his thigh pad by Shami for five, it is now 25 innings since he scored the last of his England record 25 Test hundreds. During that time Cook has averaged a modest 24 but the left-handed opener insisted he still had faith in his own ability. "I've had a couple of chop-ons, then bowled hitting your thigh pad...it's a testing game and these things happen when you're not in the best of form," he said.
"But it's how you react to them and what you're doing in your practice. If you suddenly change everything, you're not being true to yourself. "I've got to believe the wheel will turn at some stage. I need to start scoring runs at the top of the order for England."
"For a year I haven't done it now and I need to do it. Simple."