It was 23 months and 30 innings in the making, but when Virender Sehwag lofted Graeme Swann over mid-on to bring up his 23rd Test hundred, it had the kind of impact India so badly missed. The manner in which Sehwag batted, as much as the runs he scored, did the dual job of restoring confidence in the Indian camp and putting the pressure squarely on England's bowlers.
Over the last two years, India's results, especially overseas, have slipped, and it's perhaps no coincidence that Sehwag did not go on to make it count in the same period. Grappling with injury, Sehwag never looked out of form, but given how early he often fell, it was hard to say just what was on his mind.
On the day, though, there was a method to Sehwag's approach, and it showed. "I have to thank DJ (CKM Dhananjay), our video analyst. He gave me videos of my last 10 matches and whenever I played 10 overs quietly I scored a big hundred," said Sehwag, soon after the first day's play. "We were watching videos last night till 11pm. I realised that if I played the new ball cautiously it's good for me and good for the team. I'm very pleased that Gautam (Gambhir) also scored runs and we gave a very good start to the team. It's a good sign."
Sehwag's approach was distinctly measured to begin with, and he ensured that the ball was kept along the ground at most times, only taking the aerial route when there was no obvious risk involved. On a slow pitch, this proved to be the perfect approach.
"It's not easy to bat, because the pitch is on the slower side. It's difficult to play your shots. They set the field with everybody on the line, especially deep point and deep square-leg, so it was not easy to hit boundaries, but you have to back yourself and play your shots," said Sehwag. "After 50, I relaxed, got little more confident, and played a few shots. I hit 15 in a Tim Bresnan over and got more confident."
Confidence apart, Sehwag scored at an even pace all day, reaching his half-century in 45 balls, and taking the same number for his second 50. That Sehwag played out 43 dot balls in reaching three figures was comfortably overshadowed by the 15 fours and solitary six that he hit.
While Sehwag provided the ideal start, adding 134 with Gambhir, he warned that there was plenty of work left to do for India in the Test. "We have to work hard to take 20 English wickets. They are not Bangladesh or somebody else," said Sehwag. "They are a very good side, No. 2 at the moment. I think we will have to work for their 20 wickets, they will not throw their wickets for sure."
Sehwag also said that the slowness of the pitch meant that a careful batsman could avoid giving his wicket away for long periods. "The first three batsmen got out trying to hit the ball. If you're just blocking it's difficult to get out. If you play your shots and make a mistake then only you get out," said Sehwag. "The wicket is very slow, it's not turning sharply, it's not coming quickly. If you show some patience you can score some runs as well."
Sehwag had nothing but praise for Cheteshwar Pujara, who remained unbeaten on a polished 98. "He's a good player and he showed his class, and hopefully tomorrow he will come and score his hundred," said Sehwag. "He knows his game better than anybody else. He's very patient and he doesn't miss the loose balls. Whenever one comes his way he scores a four or two or three."