Indian bowlers nullify England’s toss advantage on Day 1

The first day of the third Test between India and England at Mohali didn’t witness the highest class of cricket but found a clear front-runner by the end of it. India were given a better standing at the end of the day thanks to the largesse of the England batsmen. Only a hard-fought 89 from Jonny Bairstow saved them a few blushes as they finished with 268 for 8 after winning the toss, which by the reckoning of Alastair Cook played a big part in the first two Tests of the series.
India’s bowlers performed well to create enough chances, and also won the patience game against England’s batsmen but were not nearly outstanding enough as the score would suggest. That they had an ordinary day on the field, dropping chances aplenty and yet finished on top showed how collectively poor England were. Bairstow’s defiance kept India at bay for a long period but England batsmen squandered an advantage after winning the toss.
On a pitch that was keeping low but at the same time allowing the pacers to get some movement off it, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami troubled Haseeb Hameed and Alastair Cook regularly. They saw them repeatedly play and miss, get edges that didn’t carry or being dropped in the first ten overs. Cook was put down twice on 3 and 23 off Shami, first by Jadeja at third slip when he was late to react and second when R Ashwin dropped a sitter at mid wicket.
After much probing, Yadav was finally rewarded as he got one to kick up sharply from a good length and had Hameed gloving to gully to end his brief and scratchy stay at the wicket. England were 32 for one at this stage and could have lost Cook in the very next over, had it not been for Ashwin’s drop. His torrid morning continued when an ugly misfield saw him concede a boundary. After the pacers’ first spells, Kohli got in Jayant Yadav ahead of Ashwin, who got his skipper a big reward by striking off the first ball after the drinks break. Joe Root was caught misjudging the length, playing a half-pull, to be trapped plumb in front. The morning took another upward turn for India, and Ashwin, when he struck off the first ball of the morning. Alastair Cook edged a cut off a short and wide delivery, with Parthiv Patel not missing the chance behind the stumps.
Ashwin had got a quick, and lucky redemption. The morning session had seen its dose of drama, but not entirely through quality of the cricket.
Jonny Bairstow joined Moeen Ali and the duo showed intent to attack the spinner. Moeen did it by using his feet regularly and even lofted Jayant twice in two balls for boundaries, while Bairstow was more confident, playing the lap or drive when allowed. That also made Kohli bring back Shami for another spell closer to the Lunch break. The pacer had been quite unlucky till then to not have a wicket against his name but did well to produce another chance. Moeen had been dismissed earlier from round the wicket by Shami in the series. He played and missed once here but the killer blow came via an earlier weakness, against the short ball. Shami surprised him with a well-directed quick one and had him top-edging a hook to fine leg. Another drop would have left Shami tearing out his hair, but he was instead blowing kisses towards the sky as Vijay held on.
The second session turned out to be a better one for the hosts, thanks to Bairstow’s stodgy knock but having lost four wickets on the first morning, England were forced to fight back instead of dictating terms. Ben Stokes too showed, briefly, that he was adept at using his feet, flicking or driving for boundaries while Bairstow kept himself busy through laps or strong drives. Their 57-run stand went largely without drama until Stokes ran out of patience during a lull and jumped out to be stumped by Parthiv Patel off Jadeja for 29. The session could have been better for India had Parthiv held onto a caught behind chance with Bairstow on 54, or managed to stump him off the same ball. Ashwin was now getting enough drift to trouble Bairstow, but a chance had gone begging.
Umesh Yadav’s reverse swing was to create further problems later on but Yadav was unlucky to see an edge fly between first and second slip early on in Buttler’s innings. Bairstow’s busy fifty came as a sigh of relief for England, and the partnership worth 61 with a steady Buttler helped them avoid embarrassment. But once again, just when they could have wrested the advantage, Buttler too lost the patience game. On 43, he jumped down the track to drive against Jadeja but ended up chipping it to mid off.By now Bairstow did not have the luxury of playing his shots but proved to be equally good at staying put while picking up the singles and twos. He survived an LBW review against Jadeja when on 72. and added 35 more with Chris Woakes before Jayant swung the day completely in India’s favour. In the 84th over, Jayant first had Bairstow nicking behind only to be dropped again by Parthiv. Off the very next delivery, Jayant generated big turn from round the wicket and had Bairstow missing the line to be trapped LBW.
A review in hope gave him no respite as well, as England lost their seventh wicket with just 258 on the board. It became better as Umesh Yadav bowled Woakes for 25 late in the day with the second new ball. It capped off another good day for him and Shami, where they were relentless from first new ball to second, while also testing the middle order through reverse swing. The spinners were happier to play on patience and got rewards for it as England’s batsmen were left ruing a day which they expected to dominate.

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