Edgbaston: India did exceedingly well to bring England down from 216/3 to 285/9 on the first day of the Edgbaston Test, going to stumps with a slight upper hand. The momentum swung after Virat Kohli sent Joe Root back with a direct hit from mid-wicket. That ended Root’s stay at 80 and the partnership with Jonny Bairstow at 104, and although Bairstow went on to score 70, wickets fell in a heap for England in the last session.
Ravichandran Ashwin was India’s leading bowler on the day with 4/60, but Mohammed Shami was impressive too, picking up two of the first three wickets to fall, of Keaton Jennings and Dawid Malan.
“The pitch is a little slow, there is hard work for sure, we had to maintain a good line and length all day,” pointed out Shami. “It was a little tough at the start because the pitch was slow and a little damp. By the evening, though, it became better. As a bowling unit, we did well after they were 216/3.
“When you bowl on such pitches, you get an idea of how it will behave and what you need to do. So there weren't many changes in our approach during the day but we tried to hit the right lines and lengths and not to give any width.”
England had their partnerships early on. After Alastair Cook fell to Ashwin with England on 26, Jennings and Root added 72 for the second wicket. Then there was the Root-Bairstow stand, which might have done more but for the run out.
When such partnerships develop, patience is the key on the part of the fielding side. “In a Test match, there is time and you can come back if there is a good partnership,” agreed Shami.
Shami had a good time in South Africa earlier this year, picking up 15 wickets in three Tests as India lost 2-1. But he hasn’t played much cricket since then because of injuries, and when he has, he hasn’t been among the wickets.
“It’s just that I have not been playing matches, but when we get injured, we work very hard, we go through training and rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy, we are in the nets constantly. So when we get back to play, we make our plans and return to action,” said Shami.
While one would feel that India took the honours on the opening day, England opener Keaton Jennings believes that the game is still evenly poised. “That has been a little bit of a missed opportunity for us. You look at 35 overs of cricket, off the old ball, there still seems to be a bit of lateral movement,” said Jennings.
“I suppose from our point of view we've got 300 on the board and if we can come out and be pretty relentless in the way we go about hitting our areas at some point tomorrow, you don't actually know what a good score it is. On one hand, it is a missed opportunity, but on the other you don't know what a good score is until both sides have batted.”
One of the talking points of the day was Virat Kohli’s animated celebration after pulling off a brilliant chase-slide-gather-and-throw run out of Root, which triggered the England downturn on the day.
The India captain ended with an approximation of Root’s bat-drop celebration from the third one-day international against India at Headingley last month, leading to excitement on social media. Jennings, though, saw nothing wrong.
“Everybody is entitled to celebrate how they want to,” said the 26-year-old opening batsman. “He celebrated, and that's cool.”
Ashwin was the bowler when Root was run out, and the off-spinner went on to take 4/60 with his mixed bag of tricks. “He's a very good bowler. He lands the ball in the right place and varies his pace. He bowled nicely today,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we come up with a game plan in order to play off-spinners as a left-hander. Bowled a good ball to Cooky this morning, maybe that came down to a bit of tackiness in the surface. I've played him a couple of times, played against him at Worcester last year, so it's not the first time I've played against him and hopefully I get many more opportunities to.”