Pacers strike as India make early inroads

England's Alastair Cook watches as he is caught by India captain Virat Kohli on the opening day of the fourth Test in Southampton on Thursday. AFP

India pacers Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma were in red-hot form, blowing apart the England top-order on the opening morning of the fourth Test on Thursday.

Bumrah (2/20) and Ishant (1/7) breathed fire right from the onset on a fast and bouncy Ageas Bowl track to leave England reeling at 57/4 at lunch that left skipper Joe Root wondering on why he chose to bat first.

Having bagged a five-wicket haul upon his return from injury in the previous Test at Trent Bridge, Bumrah was sensational yet again. He harried the England batsmen continuously with his pace and angles. With Ishant being impeccable from the other end, England batsmen found the situation hostile.

Both Bumrah and Ishant hardly bowled a ball in anger during their probing spells. They constantly kept coming at the English batsmen, their control and guile just top-class. One such wicked ball, wrapped with plenty of cunningness from Bumrah, got India the first breakthrough.

After taking all the balls away from Keaton Jennings — largely due to his natural angle — Bumrah surprised Jennings with an in-swinger. Not prepared for it, a clueless Jennings offered no shot, the ball hitting his pads and leaving umpire Bruce Oxenford with a simple decision to make.

Bumrah could have had his second wicket soon when he trapped Root leg-before wicket. India’s appeal was turned down originally but when they asked for a review, to their dismay they saw Bumrah had overstepped. Had he not, Root would have been adjudged out by the third umpire.

Root’s reprieve, however, didn’t last long when Ishant trapped him leg-before with a brilliant in-swinger as England slumped to 15/2. England’s troubles worsened when Bumrah produced another magical ball to oust Jonny Bairstow. After angling all the balls into the right-hander, Bumrah got the final ball of the over to hold its line and Bairstow ended up feathering a simple catch to wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant.

Alastair Cook, who was waging a lonely battle from one end, constantly defying Ishant and Bumrah with some wonderful leaves then perished with his favourite shot. Trying to release all the tension against Hardik Pandya, he cut a harmless delivery but Virat Kohli pulled off a brilliant catch at third slip. With the end of his 55-ball stay, England were reeling at 36/4.

All-rounder Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler then withstood a stunning spell from Mohammed Shami, who procured alarming movement. They even batted out a short two-over spell from Bumrah just before lunch but they know an arduous test awaits them after the meal.

Brief scores: England: 57/4 in 24 overs (Alastair Cook 17; Jasprit Bumrah 2-21, Ishant 1-7, Hardik Pandya 1-16).

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Pacers strike as India make early inroads

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