Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 2, 2018

England vs India First Test Day One

Your correspondent’s vantage point

England, having tossed away good positions through the course of the day, closed the first day of the First Test on 285-9, India capitalising on Joe Root’s run out to snare six wickets for 69 runs on a blameless pitch. England will have to bowl very well to get back into this Test and then bat with much more application if they are to avoid going one down with four to play.

At 10.30, the sun shining on Edgbaston, Root looked at the straw coloured pitch and said “We’ll have a bat”. Virat Kohli must have sucked on a thoughtful tooth and considered a tough task in front of him and his bowlers, with just the one spinner to relieve the four seamers. In the first session, ball beat bat frequently (as it will do in Test cricket) but Keaton Jennings was compact and watchful and Root busy and bustling as usual. The movement in the air was very much from the hand, allowing the batsmen to leave with some assurance, conventional swing benign in comparison to the reverse that would come later in the day.

The odd one out was Alastair Cook, who, having looked competent, if not fluent, in doing the hard work during the half hour in which the feet aren’t really moving and everything is mechanical, missed one from Ravichandran Ashwin that turned past a slightly crooked bat to hit the stumps – gone for 13. Ashwin had the first of what he hoped would be a clutch of left-handed scalps in August (England have seven lefties in the order) and a crucial confidence booster after the popular clamour to play the exotic wrist spin of Kuldeep Yadav. In contrast, the dismissal did nothing for the confidence of Alastair Cook, bowled for the fourth time in his last nine innings – not a good look for an opening batsman.

With road closures around the ground, the crowd took some time to settle into their seats and the players too were feeling their way back into Test cricket after a couple of months of white ball biffage with the bat and liquorice allsorts bowling with the ball. England were going at four an over or so, but that was more the result of Kohli’s admirably aggressive fields than positive strokeplay. The cliche would have it that two heavyweights were feeling each other out in the first round of a championship bout.

England took lunch at 83-1, having had that bit of luck you need (Ajinkya Rahane had dropped Jennings in the slips), knowing that another good session would put them very much on the front foot. India looked to tighten their lines and exploit the touch of sideways movement still available from a drying pitch. Perhaps the happiest man on either side was Adil Rashid, who will relish the opportunity to bowl in the fourth innings in the light of the turn Ashwin was extracting on the first morning.

Root was determined to play a lot of shots – perhaps a contributory factor in his curious record of non-conversions of fifties into centuries. Of course, you can’t score if you don’t play ’em, but England’s captain could afford to sit in the game a little with easier pickings likely to come – though that’s never been his style.

Jennings was largely untroubled, his economy of movement and compact approach ideal for bowling that had just a little movement either way. Ironically, that virtue was to be his undoing, as tentative footwork and very soft hands led to an inside edge on to the pads, the ball dribbling back on to the stumps, Mohammed Shami the somewhat fortunate, if deserving, bowler. Jennings out for 42, England 98-2.

Dawid Malan had survived one review – a poor one, as the ball hit his foot well outside off stump – but his own review failed to save him, LBW on Umpire’s Call to Mohammed Shami, whose line was the best of the Indian seamers. The stocky Middlesex man was gone for a scratchy 8 and, in a portent of what fans of Test cricket must surely be hoping for over the next six weeks, the pendulum had swung already, India nosing in front.

On Yorkshire Day, two favourite sons of the Broad Acres were getting on with it, Root passing 50 and Jonny Bairstow playing with the freedom of a Number 7 despite coming in at 5. Kohli was having a bob each-way (as MCJ Nicholas might say) with in-out fields to dry up the runs and a couple of slips for the flashing edge. A shocking over rate didn’t help England’s cause, just 54 overs delivered in two full sessions, with Ashwin bowling 11. Penalise the fielding side one run for each ball not delivered (and make sessions 32 overs long) and the crowd would get its (considerable) money’s worth. England took tea on 163-3, the match nicely balanced.

After tea, England accumulated without much trouble and India were waiting for something to happen when, as so often the case in Test cricket, something did. What looked an entirely unremarkable single suddenly demanded attention as the England men inexplicably attempted a second. It had to be Kohli, who had to pick it up, who was certain to hit the stumps despite throwing off balance and Root had to be given, miles out, the partnership terminated on 104, the England captain trudging back 20 short of that elusive century. It was poor cricket from England, but sensational stuff from India’s skipper – that star quality yet again. England fans had that collective sinking feeling that this was a Turning Point – and so it proved.

Bairstow, perhaps brooding on his call, followed his captain back to the pavilion for a fine 70, concluding on a poor shot, bowled off the inside edge, the bat neither vertical nor horizontal. England, having got ahead in the game, were behind on 223-5. One brought two, as Jos Buttler played all round a straight one from Ashwin to go for a duck and England – just when runs should have been coming more easily – had lost three wickets for eight runs. Kohli had made the breach, but India’s bowlers hadn’t had to do too much to burst through the middle order.

And Ashwin didn’t do much to send back Ben Stokes, who could have hit a long hop anywhere, and, perhaps confused by the options, got half way through a pull before seeming to give it up, the end result being a shovel back to the bowler – dismal.

Not for the first time in the day, just as England’s batsmen started to look comfortable, Ishant Sharma clattered the old ball into Adil Rashid’s front pad, reverse swing doing its job as Kohli knew it would, and, by virtue of being caught on the crease, the review lit up with three reds and another mini-revival was snuffed out.

Stuart Broad came and went, as he does these days, and Jimmy Anderson got plenty of shouts for his channeling of Courtney Walsh’s contortions at the crease. Quite what Sam Curran, highly orthodox in approach, made of it, can only be speculated upon. He finished the day on 24, England on 285-9.

The day belonging to India, Ashwin, Shami and, inevitably, the captain leading the way. Batting was never entirely easy, but few England batsmen can claim to have no culpability in their demises – one feels that India are unlikely to be as profligate and if a centurion can be found amongst the visitors, England will be facing a first innings deficit and a bowler who has the er… Indian sign over the left-handers.


Responses

  1. I still think Cook might profitably have retired after the winter. I know there’re aren’t that many options at opener, and he’s probably still good for the odd outstanding innings, but 8 times out of 10 he’s going to fail. Not what you need from the senior opener.

    Excellent as ever, Gary.

    • I fear you’re right.

      Thanks for the kind words Sir.


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