India’s batsmen failed yet again but the bowlers fought back to leave the fourth Test against England interestingly poised at the end of the first day’s play at The Oval. Shardul Thakur hit the fastest Test fifty in England, in terms of balls faced, which, along with Virat Kohli’s 50, helped India post 191. Jasprit Bumrah then struck twice before Umesh Yadav got the important wicket of Joe Root as England went to stumps 53 for 3.
The recalled all-rounder Thakur, who had not played since suffering a hamstring injury during the drawn series opener at Trent Bridge, came in with India in dire straits at 117-6 after losing the toss on the opening day of the fourth Test.
But Thakur, in just his fourth match at this level, responded with a superb display of clean hitting that saw him go to fifty in just 31 balls, including six fours and three sixes, before he was eventually lbw for 57 to opposing all-rounder Chris Woakes.
Thakur’s half century surpassed England great Ian Botham’s 32-ball fifty against New Zealand, also at the Oval, in 1986 as the quickest in a Test in England.
India captain Virat Kohli, who made exactly 50, was the only other batsman to pass 17 in the innings after England skipper Joe Root won the toss.
Woakes, playing his first Test in over a year because of injuries and Covid complications, took 4-55 in 15 overs.
But the Warwickshire paceman, who replaced left-arm swing bowler Sam Curran, would have had even better figures had not two catches been dropped off his bowling. One was off Kohli by Root, on 22.
With ball in hand, Bumrah dismissed Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed in the same over. Burns was bowled while Hameed was caught behind. Root and Dawid Malan counter attacked without risky shots and seemed set to take the team to stumps.
However, Umesh got one to nip in sharply through Root’s gate to dismiss him for 21. Craig Overton, the nightwatchman, was with Malan at stumps.
This five-match series is level at 1-1 after England’s innings and 76-run victory in the third Test at Headingley last week.
(AFP + cricketnext staff)