Bairstow shines but India take charge against careless England

Tea England 205 for 5 (Bairstow 66*, Buttler 38*) v India
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England managed to cling to India’s coattails on the opening day in Mohali, but did themselves no favours having been given what should have been a significant advantage by winning the toss. Jonny Bairstow, promoted to No. 5 amid England’s batting reshuffle, held the innings together after four wickets had gone in the morning session and formed consecutive half-century stands with Ben Stokes and the recalled Jos Buttler.

By tea, Bairstow, who had been given a life on 54, had added an unbroken 61 with Buttler, who was playing just his second first-class match of the year. The pair had to combat a challenging spell of reverse swing from Umesh Yadav, who almost uprooted Bairstow’s leg stump in similar fashion to Vizag, and enticed Buttler to edge through the slips, but guided England to 205 for 5.

Despite some understandable uncertainty from Buttler, he helped Bairstow ensure England did not stand still. He brought out the reverse sweep (although he found point), raised the fifty stand with a strong cover drive, and having taken 11 balls to get off the mark, reached the break with 38 off 56 deliveries.

During a frenetic morning – which included dropped catches, a comedic misfield and early signs of how the pitch is likely to only get more challenging – England’s two lynchpin batsmen, Alastair Cook and Joe Root, gifted their wickets to India, as did Moeen Ali to leave then 92 for 4 at lunch.

In the afternoon, Stokes joined the list of haphazard dismissals when he charged at and missed a straighter delivery from Ravindra Jadeja. He had begun the rebuilding job alongside his regular partner-in-crime, Bairstow, as the pair added 57 for the fifth wicket, rather than their usual sixth, which took their tally together for the year to over 800 runs.

Only Haseeb Hameed, who received a brute of a delivery, could reflect that he did not have a hand in his dismissal. England were 32 for no loss in the tenth over when the first sign of the tricks that the surface could play brought Hameed’s wicket. A delivery from Umesh spat off a length and smashed into Hameed’s top glove, forcing him to drop the bat as the ball looped to gully. As with the grubber he received in the second innings of the previous Test, there was little Hameed could do except curse his bad luck.

Cook’s was an incident-filled stay as he was twice offered lives. His first came in the third over of the day when he had 3 and was squared up by Mohammed Shami. The leading edge flew quickly towards third slip where Jadeja did not even get a hand on the chance. Then, when Cook had 23, R Ashwin spilled a simple chance at midwicket as Cook flicked at Shami’s first ball from round the wicket.

It was shaping up as a morning to forget for Ashwin who also made a mess of trying to intercept a leg-slide flick from Root – with Virat Kohli’s expression growing more angered by the minute – but he quickly made amends when tossed the ball, striking first delivery as Cook thin-edged a cut off a wide delivery.

Cook’s dismissal meant England had lost their two key batsmen in the space of seven deliveries after Root had absent-mindedly swiped across the line at Jayant Yadav having skipped his way to 15 at better than a run-a-ball. After his first-innings dismissal in Vizag, it was another poor moment that England could ill-afford from their best player.

Moeen, one of the England batsmen most comfortable using his feet against the spin, attempted a counter-attack when he came down the pitch to Jayant, who had started with four consecutive maidens, sending back-to-back deliveries straight for four and six. But a return to pace ended his stay when Shami produced a well-directed bouncer over Moeen’s head which meant he could not control his hook and picked out fine leg.

It meant a familiar pairing had to come to the rescue. During Bairstow’s stellar year there has been much debate as to whether he is wasted down at No. 7 – particularly given the struggles of others tried higher up England’s middle order – and prior to this match Cook said there had been “a glint in his eye” when he was told of his promotion. His footwork was confident whether playing forward or back, which enabled him to pick the lengths of the spinners instead of being caught betwixt and between.

Stokes, too, had looked in good order – with a stinging straight drive off Shami being particularly eye-catching – before Jadeja earned reward for keeping him quiet. Stokes had only been able to take Jadeja for three runs off 30 deliveries before using his feet and driving around a delivery that did not turn, giving Parthiv plenty of time to complete the stumping. Words were briefly exchanged between Stokes and Kohli leading the umpires to intervene.

Bairstow went to his fifty off 76 balls with a slash through point off Jadeja and then followed the reprieve when Parthiv could not hold a thin edge off Ashwin. Initially it appeared to be a missed stumping, as Bairstow dragged his back foot out of the crease, but subsequent replays confirmed the nick. India’s mistakes in the first session did not prove too costly, but this one could yet come back to bite.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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