India's bowlers blunt England's Bazball instinct | Crickit
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India's bowlers blunt England's Bazball instinct

By, Hyderabad
Jan 25, 2024 08:43 PM IST

The visitors made a quick start but were quickly brought back to the ground by the spinners.

If the England batters needed any reminder of the challenge on their hands in this series against India, they got it within minutes of the introduction of spin on Day 1 of the first Test match being played at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.

India's Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates the wicket of England's Ben Duckett (BCCI-X)
India's Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates the wicket of England's Ben Duckett (BCCI-X)

Off to a solid start against the new ball pair of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, openers Ben Duckett and Zak Crawley raced away to a partnership of 55 inside 12 overs with a flurry of fours. But no sooner were R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja introduced into the attack, England lost three wickets for five runs in a five over period from 12 to 16th over.

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In what promises to be an exciting contest between two attacking teams, there was no shortage of drama on the first day. Out to prove that Bazball works in all conditions, England had their captain Ben Stokes to thank for thwarting the Indian spin combination of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel from running through their side. After the spin troika had reduced the visitors to 155/7, Stokes’ counter-attacking 70 off 88 balls helped them to a total of 246.

But the rest of the batters had another harrowing experience dealing with the spin combination of Ashwin & Co. There were just two fifty run partnerships. After the opening pair’s 55, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow added 61 runs for the fourth wicket. The pitch offered turn but it was slow and played fine on Day 1.

On this ground, Ashwin has a superb record. He was the most impressive (21-1-68-3) again, while sharing the spoils with Jadeja for three apiece. With six wickets between them, the two now have a combined tally of 506 wickets at home, surpassing the record of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh (501) for most wickets as a pair in India.

“Thought it was pretty interesting (the pitch), maybe a bit of moisture early on. Then I thought it just slowed down. Got to mix your pace up as a bowler," Ashwin said at the end of Day 1.

JAISWAL’S FLYING START

There are doubts about how effective Bazball will be in typical Indian conditions but the real assessment can only be done after India have finished their innings. On evidence of the one session that the home side batted, their players have looked more at ease at the crease.

India don’t have a name for their brand of cricket, but in the build-up to the series coach Rahul Dravid said that his batters were naturally aggressive players. Jaiswal backed up that statement with a scintillating unbeaten knock of 76 off just 70 balls to give India a flying start of 119/1 in 23 overs.

Jaiswal looked to dominate from ball one and the debutant left-arm spinner Tom Hartley was welcomed with two sixes in his first over. It was a tough initiation for the youngster. When his captain switched his end, the India opener picked him for three fours. Even the more experienced Jack Leach failed to make any impression. India’s 50 was up in 6.3 overs. With captain Rohit Sharma, Jaiswal added 80 runs in 12.2 overs. Scoring at a rate of 108, Jaiswal raised the hundred of the innings in the 19th over with a superb drive to cover fence off Rehan Ahmed. Shubman Gill had a different approach though, looking to play himself in reaching 14 off 43 balls.

India are off to as good a start as they would have imagined, however, given the pitch is expected to deteriorate and India have to bat fourth, their batters have to make their first innings count.

“We thought 240 (England score] was competitive, 30-40 more than we would have liked. The start given us by Jaiswal and Rohit made us breathe a little easier. Need someone to go on and score a hundred," Ashwin said.

BAZBALL EXAMINATION

As England look to prove that their aggressive approach to batting can work in all conditions, Thursday was a crucial day to make a statement.

But the quality Indian spinners proved that the bowling is good and the conditions are helpful, there is only so much batters can do no matter what approach they take. Ashwin got opener Ben Duckett in the third over of spin with a ball that skidded through and nailed him leg-before wicket. No 3 batter Ollie Pope looked at sea against the turning ball before Jadeja ended his struggle on the 11th ball he faced with a regulation dismissal caught at slip. Zak Crawley’s early confidence also disappeared against Ashwin. In desperation he gave the off-spinner the charge only to hit straight to Mohammed Siraj who scooped low to take the catch.

When seasoned batters Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow added a half-century stand to take England to lunch at 108/3, there would have been an air of optimism in the England camp. But it was short-lived. A double blow on resumption had England on the ropes. Bairstow was bowled by Axar with a beauty and Root top-edged a sweep shot off Jadeja to be caught by Jasprit Bumrah. Axar revelled in the role of the support bowler by picking his second wicket of Ben Foakes.

England’s tail wagged a little but Bumrah came into his own in the session to pick two late wickets and end the resistance. He deceived Rehan Ahmed with a beautiful slower ball and then ended Stokes’ fighting knock.

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