Indian bowlers call the shots

Indian bowlers call the shots

SILENCING THE OPPONENTS: Indian skipper Virat Kohli (left) celebrates with R Ashwin after dismissing England captain Joe Root with a superb direct hit. AP/PTI

On an enthralling day of Test cricket, India turned up the music in two short passages of play to set the pace on the opening day of first game against England here on Wednesday.

Mohammed Shami (2/64), who bowled excellently all day in swinging the ball both ways consistently in speeds around 140 kmph, was the architect of the first burst in the session just after lunch. Steaming in from the Birmingham end with a purpose, he prized out the wickets of plucky opener Keaton Jennings (42, 98b, 4x4) and Dawid Malan in superb spell of 4-1-10–2 to derail England’s first fightback and hand India the initiative.

However, familiar foe Joe Root (80, 156b, 9x4) and a pugnacious Jonny Bairstow (70, 88b, 9x4) threatened to take the momentum away from the Indians with contrasting innings. While Root, who became the third youngest batsmen to go past 6000 Test runs, oozed class in hitting a 12th consecutive fifty against India, Bairstow threw caution to the wind with a daring onslaught to push the visitors on the back foot.

Bairstow and Root then upped the ante post tea as runs came in a torrent and worries started to mount in the Indian camp. But skipper Virat Kohli, who constantly kept motivating his bowlers throughout the day, produced a wonderful piece of fielding to send his English counterpart back and change the game on its head.

Bairstow played the ball to mid-wicket and called for a two. Root, slow on the first run, responded to his partner’s call when Kohli, sprinting like a hare from short mid-wicket, picked the ball up and hurled it on the turn to knock the stumps directly and reduce England to 216/4.

The dismissal played on the mind of Bairstow who flashed at a wide one only to see the ball crash onto his stumps. An over later R Ashwin trapped Jos Buttler leg-before wicket as England lost three wickets for just eight runs.

India, smelling blood, were on the hunt then. Kohli summoned Ashwin (4/60), who bowled with the verve and venom often seen of him on home soil, and the off spinner sent back the dangerous Ben Stokes. As the all-rounder trudged off disappointingly, knowing he had thrown his wicket away, India kept coming at the tail-enders.

Adil Rashid and Sam Curan thwarted their efforts for a while but Ishant Sharma, bowling like a workhorse throughout the day, finally got his reward when he trapped the former leg-before. The English tail wagged a bit more to take stumps at 285/9.

While the two short passages of helped Indian gain early control, they owe it to Shami and Ashwin. Shami, surprisingly not given the new ball considering the amount of swing he can generate, constantly troubled the batsmen with his lines. With the ball moving both ways, batsmen struggled to play him, unsure which way it would move. 

The surprise package was the performance of Ashwin. Pilloried often for not being potent enough in non-Asian conditions, Ashwin bowled with a lot of purpose. Tossing the ball up nicely and inviting the batsmen to come at him, he dismissed Alastair Cook with a peach. Barring one poor ball that was dispatched for a boundary, he was in total control of his craft that English batsmen found it too hot to handle.

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