India looked to suffer almost the same fate that they did on the first day of the third Test at Headingley, when they found themselves reduced to 127/7 on the opening day of the fourth Test on a batting-friendly Oval pitch on Thursday.
The two new inclusions for this Test, Shardul Thakur and Umesh Yadav, however, kept them in the game. The former’s half-century took India to 191 while the latter’s dismissal of in-form Joe Root pegged England to 53/3 at the draw of stumps.
The hosts still trail by 138 runs with seven wickets in hand. However, they have a major concern since Root, the batsman to score over 1/3rd of their runs in the present series, is already back in the hut.
Much of the day, however, depicted a story of Indian team’s fragile batting against moving deliveries.
The openers Rohit Sharma (11) and K.L. Rahul (17) began well, adding 28, but they both fell on the same score as England tightened pressure bowling maiden after maiden.
Cheteshwar Pujara (4) was the third wicket to fall — for the 11th time to James Anderson — with the score on 39 and when Ravindra Jadeja, promoted to No. 5, was dismissed with the score on 69, it all fell on the shoulders of skipper Virat Kohli, who looked the best of the Indian batsmen.
Kohli’s masterly 50 off 96 deliveries contained eight fours and while he and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, who came in at No. 6, batted, India still had hope.
But all that hope blew up in smoke when Kohli nicked one from Ollie Robinson (3/38) to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow in the 43rd over, and seven overs later, Rahane (14) edged one to Moeen Ali in the slips off Craig Overton (1/49).
Soon Rishabh Pant was gobbled up by Chris Woakes (4/55), the most successful bowler on the day.
However, Shardul Thakur walked in and played some great shots. He hit three big sixes, including one over the cow corner that reminded one of Kapil Dev.
“A lot of my teammates are calling me by that name. It is great to be compared to the greats of the game,” Thakur said after the day’s play.
His other sixes, equally delectable, were a pull over square leg and one straight down the ground. Thanks to his 57 off 36 balls, India reached their eventual 191-run total.
The total was still low by any standard on a batting-friendly pitch at The Oval.
Jasprit Bumrah (2/15) then struck early, in his second over, dismissing both Rory Burns (5) and Haseeb Hameed (0). While Burns chopped one on to his stumps, Hameed was caught behind by Pant as he suffered a brain fade and went for a cut over the slips.
Skipper Root (21) resurrected the innings from 6/2, adding 46 for the third wicket with Dawid Malan (batting 26) as England went past fifty.
However, just as he looked to take England to stumps undefeated, pacer Umesh Yadav produced a ball that moved in a bit to beat Root’s defence and rattle the stumps.
India were back in the game.
Brief scores (at stumps, Day 1): India 191 (Shardul Thakur 57, Virat Kohli 50, Chris Woakes 4/55, Ollie Robinson 3/38) vs England 55/3 (Jasprit Bumrah 2/15, Umesh Yadav 1/15).