England ended their first innings in the morning on Day 3 after amassing 578 in the first innings making most of winning the toss and batting first in the series opener in Chennai. It was England’s second-highest first innings total in India, the previous highest achieved in 1985, also in Chennai. While the wicket did not offer much bounce, pace, purchase or turn to the Indian bowlers, the visitors were also aided by some indiscipline in the field by the home team.
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India bowled as many as 20 no balls in the first innings against England in Chennai thereby equaling their record at home. They were guilty of delivering 20 no balls against Sri Lanka when the visitors had put up a colossal 760 for 7 in Ahmedabad in the series opener in 2009. Zaheer Khan overstepped on 9 occasions, Ishant Sharma thrice and the spinner, Amit Mishra 8 times.
The culprits this time were Jasprit Bumrah (7 no balls) and the spinner Shahbaz Nadeem (6 no balls). Ishant Sharma (5 no balls) and R Ashwin (2 no balls) also added to the extras and the indiscipline of the attack in the first innings. Bumrah was playing his first Test in India and Ishant was coming back after a long layoff due to injury. Being fast bowlers they can be excused on the first day of the series opener. But there can be no justification for crossing the line for a spinner.
Nadeem was playing just his second Test. He bowled a number of short deliveries which were either cut or pulled for a boundary by the England batsmen. To add to that he was also guilty of overstepping on 6 occasions - something which is inexcusable for a slow bowler in any form of cricket, leave alone at the highest level in such a crucial and high stake Test series.
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India were also poor in the field dropping a number of catches at crucial junctures in the match. Rishabh Pant dropped a tough chance of Rory Burns off Bumrah’s first Test match delivery in India on Day 1. The England openers went on to give their side a solid 63-run opening wicket partnership paving the way for the likes of Joe Root and Ben Stokes to take over. The dangerous Stokes was given two back to back reprieves when on 31 and 32 respectively - he was dropped by Ashwin off his own bowling before Pujara put down a difficult chance off Nadeem in the very next over.
The England all-rounder went on to score an attacking 82 changing the course of the match in his stand with Root. Washington Sundar remained wicket-less as Rohit Sharma dropped a dolly at short mid-wicket to give Dom Bess a second chance.
To make matters worse for India they squandered an opportunity to run-out Root when the England captain was on 151 - a half decent throw from Sundar and Root would not have had a chance. Instead he went on to register his 5th double hundred.
India have not started well in Chennai. But they have the batting resources and the talent and ability in the bowling unit to make up in the second innings. Will India fightback and continue their home domination?
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