R Aswhin produced one of his most impactful performance outside the sub-continent as India reduced England to 285 for nine on the opening day of the first cricket Test at Edgbaston, Birmingham on Wednesday.
Ashwin (4/60) registered his best figures yet in Test cricket across South Africa, England and Australia as the hosts lost six wickets for 69 runs in the final session of play to find themselves in a precarious position after opting to bat.
Joe Root (80 runs off 156 balls, 9x4s) scored an unbeaten 41st Test half-century, but the English innings completely got derailed after his dismissal. At stumps, Sam Curran was batting on 24 with James Anderson for company.
Root’s dismissal was, arguably, the turning point of the day. It was the 63rd over of the innings when Virat Kohli’s direct throw ran out his counterpart as he tried to come back for a non-existent double. The Indian captain’s celebration was quite the sight as he brought out an array of reactions, starting from a few flying kisses to re-enacting the mic-drop, referencing Root’s celebration at the end of the ODI series.
In the final session of the day, India didn’t begin well with England progressing as Jonny Bairstow (70 off 88 balls, 9x4s) brought up his 18th Test half-century off 72 balls. In doing so, he put on 105 runs with Root for the fourth wicket.
Root and Bairstow got their runs off only 138 balls as England crossed 200 in the 62nd over and were looking set for a strong total before things unravelled in the most odd fashion after that run-out.
England lost three wickets for eight runs in the next 25 balls. First, Bairstow played on off Umesh Yadav (1/56) and then Ashwin trapped Jos Buttler lbw for a two-ball duck as England were rocked out of their comfort zone.
Sensing a kill, India never let go the pressure in the remainder of the session. Every time England tried to build a partnership, Indian bowlers struck back and it resulted in regular wickets. Ashwin dismissed Ben Stokes (21) with a return catch in the 75th over as England were reduced to 243 for seven.
A 35-run partnership between Adil Rashid (13) and Curran raised visions of a fight back but Ishant Sharma (1/46) finally got return for his hard toil, trapping Rashid lbw with a sharp inswinger. Ashwin then accounted for Stuart Broad (1), lbw too, but Anderson somehow managed to thwart his efforts for a five-wicket haul.
Mohammed Shami struck twice in the second session before England skipper Root scored his 41st Test half-century to guide the hosts to 163 for three at tea. Shami bowled an incisive spell after lunch, dismissing Keaton Jennings (42) and Dawid Malan (8) as India piled on the pressure in the second session.
The well-set Jennings’ innings ended in an odd manner. Just prior to his dismissal, there was a pigeon near the pitch that distracted him and in the very next ball, he played on after the ball clipped his pads. It was a lucky breakthrough for India as their pacers found movement after the break. Ishant and Shami bowled closer to the England batsmen and made them play more often with the latter reaping reward.
Shami then removed David Malan as well.
It was then the best phase of the day for England with Root and Bairstow joining hands. Root became the quickest batsman to 6,000 Test runs in terms of time from his debut when he reached the landmark.
Earlier, in the first session, after opting to bat, England were surprised by Kohli’s decision to introduce spin in the seventh over. Ashwin had produced a peach to dismiss Alastair Cook and the off-spinner didn’t look back from there.
(With PTI inputs)