England-India: Joe Root leaves the Kia Oval Test ready

England-India: Joe Root leaves the Kia Oval Test ready
India 191: Thakur 57, Kohli 50, Woakes 4-55, Robinson 3-38
England 53-3
England Trail for 138 races

England lost Joe Root’s key wicket late on a dramatic opening day to leave the fourth test with finely balanced India in the Kia Oval.

Root was pitched by Umesh Yadav for 21 to leave the hosts 53-3 after they had pitched India for 191.

England opted to go bowling to win the draw, and took advantage of the assist offered, Chris Woakes won 4-55 in his first round in over a year and Ollie Robinson continued a great start to his international career at 3-38.

Despite Captain Virat Kohli’s 50s, India found themselves 127-7, only for Shardul Thakur to crash a 31-ball half-century, the fastest in test cricket in England.

India lost its last three wickets in four balls, then reduced England to 6-2 – Rory Burns fell by five and Haseeb Hameed nothing, both to Jasprit Bumrah.

Root and Dawid Malan appeared to have weathered the storm, only for Umesh to cut bail and send Captain Root on his way for 21.

He let night watchman Craig Overton watch England to the end alongside Malan, who is undefeated at 26.

The chaotic day reflects fluctuating series

This has been a fluctuating series, the nature of which was reflected in a chaotic and sometimes strange opening day.

India once again ignored Ravichandran Ashwin’s 413 Proving Grounds and promoted Ravindra Jadeja to number five in the batting order.

Even though England made their way through hitting India, they still lost four receptions and Thakur flayed them.

When Burns kept playing with his own stumps and Hameed cut loose in it, there was a real danger of India wreaking havoc in the last hour.

As always, Root was a reassuring presence, and the 46 he added with Malan seemed to have England in control.

Umesh, however, rushed a nip-backer between the bat and the captain’s pad, giving India a chance to explode Friday morning.

Woakes’ Reliable Return

Woakes was England’s player of the year in 2020, but went more than 12 months without playing a test due to a combination of injury, rest and was forced into isolation.

Despite having little practice in games, he made a typically fluid comeback, rather than the omitted Sam Curran. In addition to his four wickets, he had two catches and an lbw decision against Ajinkya Rahane was overturned.

Woakes hit with just his sixth delivery, finding an extra rebound to take Rohit Sharma’s lead. Jadeja peeked out at the first slip and Rishabh Pant carelessly slapped halfway before Woakes finished Thakur’s assault by earning a lbw in review.

There were times when England weren’t at their best – James Anderson started out costly and Robinson occasionally slowed down – but they were still good enough to torment India’s vulnerable batting.

Only when Thakur got underway did England lose control, however, his downfall was the signal for the last three wickets to fall in a race.

After Thakur fell to Woakes, Bumrah was left uncovered by Burns’s direct hit after Overton knocked down Umesh, well, Jonny Bairstow, back behind the stumps, took a good one-handed catch to hold onto Mohammed Siraj and give Robinson his third wicket.

Thakur reverses the momentum

While the rest of India’s higher order showed little aptitude to repel England’s attack under favorable conditions, Captain Kohli hit with control and class.

Dragging his stumps, he played wonderful off-drive, surviving Root’s first slip off Woakes at 22.

Still, when Kohli turned the bat’s face toward Robinson to be caught behind, he confirmed that he will continue to wait for a Test Hundred dating back to November 2019, with Ajinkya Rahane and Pant following shortly thereafter.

Enter Thakur, who was favored by Ashwin, to defiantly reverse the momentum with some wild shots and clean shots.

Overton was exalted by six, Woakes suffered the same fate from a hack to cow corner and Robinson was crushed on a deep square leg.

Thakur was brought down by Bairstow when he followed a Robinson short ball at 43, completing the second-fastest half-century by an Indian batsman in test cricket. His position of fifty with Umesh came in just 6.4 overs.

Even though Thakur’s departure was the beginning of the end for India’s innings, they took the fight to their bowling alley, reclaiming the trio of lands that left the match in the balance.

‘The game is on the line’ – what they said

England’s all-rounder Chris Woakes in BBC Test Match Special: “I would have taken your hands off for 4-55 at the start of the day.

“Fair play for Shardul, he chased us around a bit and played some good shots, but shooting a team for 190 on the first day is a really good effort.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “It has been a very good day for bowling, but it has been a bad day for the craft of tryout hitting.

“You can’t tell me, with the talent on these two sides, that someone shouldn’t be scoring great in that field. I’m trying to give them all the excuses in the world, but I can’t.

“At teatime, I thought India was completely out of this test match. Well, they won the last session with Thakur’s innings and those three fields. The game is up for grabs.”

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