Yo-yo man Sam Curran rescued the England innings after the top order had crumbled.
Curran was the pick of the English batsmen today after he top-scored with 78 off 136 balls to help drag England to a somewhat respectable total of 246 after a top-order collapse.
Returning to the team after being controversially dropped for the third Test at Trent Bridge, the 20-year-old showed determination and courage as he valiantly took on the Indian attack, ending up as the only player to reach a half-century for England.
Curran’s 50-run partnerships with the recalled Moeen Ali (40 off 85 balls) and Stuart Broad (17) helped England get close to the 250-run mark. The young man certainly validated all the criticism directed at the selectors for dropping him by showcasing his talents with the bat on day one in another superb Test innings. Not only was the innings his top Test score, it also lifted his Test average to 45.00 and should surely cement his place in the England Test side for a decent stretch.
The day had started bright and sunny, but a pall soon fell over the Ageas Bowl as the England top order crumbled after Joe Root won the toss and elected to bat.
Naming an unchanged side for the first time in his 39 matches as captain, even Virat Kohli wouldn’t have expected his bowling attack to rip through the English top order as efficiently as they did. The Indian pace attack picked up where they left off in the third Test, bowling beautifully to dismiss England’s top four batsmen before lunch.
Jasprit Bumrah was the star of the morning’s show as he picked up the wickets of Keaton Jennings and Jonny Bairstow in his opening spell. Jennings, the first to fall in the morning session, was trapped plumb in front of his stumps in one of the most bizarre dismissals. Bumrah had set him up with a couple of outswingers before bringing the decisive ball back into the South African-born opener, hitting him behind the knee with an unbelievable inswinging delivery.
Bumrah was unlucky not to pick up English captain Root after he trapped him in front of the stumps. The umpire ruled Root to be not out, but India reviewed the decision and were vindicated when Hawkeye concluded that Root was indeed leg before. Unfortunately, the TV replay also revealed that the delivery had been a no-ball. Root didn’t last much longer, however, as Ishant Sharma dismissed him leg before for just four runs. It was cause for celebration for Sharma, as it was his 250th Test wicket.
Bairstow and Alastair Cook followed them back into the pavilion shortly afterwards with England 57-4. Ben Stokes (23) and Jos Buttler (21) steadied the ship somewhere but both had departed by the time the score had reached 86-6, at which point Ali and Curran brought a sense of sanity to the proceedings with their 81-run partnership.
More questions will be raised following England’s disastrous morning as the media and public alike query the ECB’s selection policies and the lack of depth (or application) in their top-order batting options.
Although a better total than most pundits expected, England’s tally is still well below par and their bowlers will have to bowl out of their skins to restrict the Indian batsmen from taking a substantial first-innings lead.
Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul will resume tomorrow at 19-0 after surviving in the final overs before stumps.
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