England had raced to 55/0 in 8 overs after winning the toss in the India vs England series opener at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Uppal in the first hours of play. ‘Bazball’, anyone?
Well, India – in reply – in the final hour of day one’s play, blazed to the same score taking two deliveries less, and then went on to add another 64 runs in the next 82 deliveries. The young upstart Yashaswi Jaiswal was at the forefront of the assault clobbering a 47-ball fifty, eventually ending the day at unbeaten 76 off 70 balls. ‘Yashball’, anyone?
India would eventually cut down the deficit to 127 runs scoring 119/1 at stumps on day one.
After the three Indian spinners had accounted for eight wickets between them to halt England at 246, India took the top honours on the opening day courtesy of Jaiswal’s intent-filled knock. For England, they started with the pace of Mark Wood at one end and the left-arm spin of Tom Hartley and the debutant’s first ball in Test cricket was dispatched disdainfully by Jaiswal towards the cow corner, his first over would go for 12 runs. He would go on to finish day one with forgettable figures off 9-0-63-0, including two no-balls.
Hartley would have felt, that Test cricket is not for the faint-hearted.
Jaiswal would go on to find the fence eight more times (6x4s, 2x6s) en route to his 2nd Test fifty adding 80 runs in just 12.2 overs alongside his skipper Rohit Sharma. Sharma started well with 24 off 27 before failing to pitch off a Jack Leach delivery and losing his wicket. Jaiswal continued to pick on the debutant and Leach to motor along helping India reduce the deficit. Stokes would also go on to lose all three of his reviews in the last session itself. The pace of Mark Wood was employed for all of two overs before Jaiswal started picking apart the spinners.
At the start of the day, a look at the scorecard after the first eight overs would have given the impression that England have indeed stuck to their guns and Bazballed their way in the first hour of play After all, the visitors, after winning the toss had motored along to 41 for no loss with a run rate of 5.12 run per over. Zak Crawley had made 16 off 22 hitting three fours while Ben Duckett had scored 23 off 27 with five boundaries to his name.
But the fact of the matter was, even though both the England openers looked to be positive in their approach, it was anything but Bazball. Mohammad Siraj, playing his first Test at his home ground, was wayward at best handing out freebies to both the openers early one. After facing five deliveries from Jasprit Bumrah, Crawley got a gentle half-volley followed by another pitched-up delivery that was driven beautifully by the tall opener.
Duckett, at the other end, was quick to pounce on any width and flayed his opening boundary off Bumrah towards backward point, followed by an off drive for four. By the end of eight overs, nine boundaries had been hit and none seemed forced. But, a double change followed and eight overs later. England’s blazing start had been flagged down. From 55/0, England stuttered to 61/3 and then succumbed to 137/6.
Parity was restored after the first hour of play with Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel claiming two wickets each and for a large part of the England innings, India were in control. Jonny Bairstow’s breezy 37 off 58 was halted by a peach of a delivery from Patel that pitched on leg stump only to deviate from over the wicket angle to leave the off stump rattled, and the batter flummoxed.
That ended a stand of 61 runs between Bairstow and Joe Root much to the relief of the sizable England contingent who had packed day one at the stadium. Root, off his second delivery, attempted a paddle sweep making his intentions of scoring run very much apparent. During the stand even though Jadeja and Ashwin primarily were disciplined, the duo looked at ease. For all the talks about spinning track, the Uppal track offered even bounce and only a bit of turn in the opening two sessions.
The first wicket to fall, that of Duckett was the one that did not turn. The left-hander played for the spin when there was none and it skidded through beating the inside edge.
Ollie Pope, back from a shoulder injury, was superbly set up by Jadeja with the one that straightened after pitching as Pope lunged forward trying to fetch one. Crawley, who had looked better of the lot probably could have curbed his enthusiasm to shimmy down the track, but he did only to gift his wicket way – caught superbly at mid-off. England lost three wickets for just five runs before Root and Bairstow started rebuilding for the visitors.
Root’s wicket though was the big one. Once again Jadeja, after being swept away by Root off a slightly fuller delivery, drew back his length and the former skipper top-edged his sweep to Bumrah at short fine.
The onus was on Stokes to push England’s total to at least 250, but with wickets falling at the other end, England seemed to be going down the barrel before the skipper found his range and chanced his arms to in the company of Mark Wood. A slog sweep for six off Ashwin in the 54th over was three fours in one Jadeja over in the 57th. A dropped catch by KS Bharat in the 60th over was followed by two more big hits off Jadeja as England closed in on 250. Eventually, England fell short by four runs with Bumrah cleaning up Stokes with a brute of a delivery on 70. Jadeja (3/88), Ashwin (3/68) and Axar (2/33) ended with eight wickets between them. The combo of Jadeja and Ashwin also became the most successful wicket-taking pair for India in Tests, claiming 503 wickets between them in 50 Tests, surpassing Anil Kumble-Harbhajan Singh’s tally of 501 in 54 Tests.