Alastair Cook may not have believed it, because, it looked too good to be true. At the lunch break, England’s score read 117/1. At tea, it was 196/2. The debutant Keaton Jennings had a hit a century. Some aggressive batting after tea had taken England to 230/2. They looked set for 400 and beyond.
But this Indian team has a dogged quality to it. They never let up. But this time, they were helped by England’s wastefulness. Moeen Ali’s attacking instincts, not for the first time this series, got the better of him. Against Ravichandran Ashwin no less, he went for an aggressive slog sweep, only to spoon it up for a catch. And, thus, the door had been opened for India again.
Wickets come easily once the opening arrives. Jennings’s excellent innings ended just two deliveries later as a beauty from Ashwin had him caught at short gully. But if England’s attacking instincts were to be tempered by that, they did not listen. Jonny Bairstow, who has been of England’s best batsmen this year, decided to fight fire with fire. It only singed him in the end as another sweep to Ashwin had him holing out to fine leg. And just like that, England had gone from 230/2 to 249/5.
Thankfully for England though, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler stemmed the flow of wickets as they took their team to relative safety. Buttler, in particular, was quick with his legs, skipping down and ensuring that the spinners’ lengths were disrupted. The ball still continued to spin around as well, indicating that this was a pitch which will progressively get worse. In that respect, England might be in a good position already. Had they not been as reckless, they would have probably been on top.
England 288/5 (Keaton Jennings 112, Moeen Ali 50; Ravichandran Ashwin 4/75, Ravindra Jadeja 1/60) vs India