India’s batsmen found the application and technique that was sorely lacking at Lord’s as Virat Kohli (97) and Ajinkya Rahane (81) guided the visitors to 307-6 at stumps after an enthralling first day at Trent Bridge.
The Tinkerman shuffles his pack
This is Virat Kohli’s 38th Test as captain and India are yet to field the same side in two consecutive matches during his tenure. After being demolished at Lord’s, the visitors made three changes at Trent Bridge – Jasprit Bumrah, Rishabh Pant and Shikhar Dhawan coming in for Kuldeep Yadav, Dinesh Karthik and Murali Vijay – and the decision to restore Dhawan, meaning a third different opening combination in as many matches, raised eyebrows. In the Sky Sports comms box, Harbhajan Singh made clear he thought it was a mistake.
The move was an understated success, though. An opening stand of 60 might not leap off the page but in the context of India’s previous batting travails – their opening pair averaged 17 across the first two Tests – it was a big step in the right direction. Dhawan profited from a modified technique, letting the ball come to him rather than thrusting forward as the aggressive left-hander generally likes to do, and he played nicely for his 35 before nicking to Jos Buttler at slip off Chris Woakes.
With KL Rahul also looking more comfortable at the crease in registering a series-high 23, it meant Kohli walked to the wicket after 21 overs rather than facing Anderson and Broad with a spring in their step and near-enough brand-new ball in their hand.
For obvious reasons most of the pre-match talk surrounded Ben Stokes but while the all-rounder had a quiet day at the office, struggling with his line and proving expensive, it was England’s hero from Lord’s who impressed again on day one at Trent Bridge.
With Sam Curran’s emergence, Stokes available for selection (at least until the ECB’s disciplinary commission pass judgment) and Moeen Ali waiting in the wings, Chris Woakes faces stiff competition in the all-rounder stakes. But on current form he is undroppable.
He followed up his century and four wickets in the second Test by taking out India’s top three before lunch, using his natural away-swing to great effect and showing the skill and control to bring the ball back in, seemingly at will. His dismissal of Rahul – setting him up with a series of outswingers before widening his fingers on the seam and bringing the ball back in off the pitch – was Anderson-esque in its execution.
Woakes now averages 54 with the bat and 23 with the ball in home Tests. By comparison, Stokes averages 33 with the bat and 34 with the ball in England.
Cook’s one-handed grab
Alastair Cook’s not had the best time of it in the cordon of late, with CricViz data showing he’s dropped 16 chances since the start of 2016, with a success rate of 70 per cent, but he showed his reflexes are still in fine working order when he took a screamer at first slip to end Rahane’s innings on 81. Driving loosely at a wide delivery from Stuart Broad, Rahane got a thick edge through to Cook who saw the ball late but stuck out a left hand and held on to what Ian Botham described as “the best catch of his career”.
Adil Rashid may have felt his place was under threat after his TFC at Lord’s but Joe Root opted instead to drop Sam Curran for the returning Ben Stokes, describing it as the hardest selection decision of his captaincy so far.
When the Yorkshire leg-spinner was carted for 10 in his first over, serving up a filthy half-tracker with his fourth delivery, it was tempting to think the change-up of a left-arm swing bowler would have been a more useful option for Root to have up his sleeve, particularly as Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane bedded in, putting on India’s first century stand in England since Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami at the same venue four years ago.
However, Rashid returned late in the day to make an intervention which could prove crucial in deciding the outcome of this match. With Kohli three runs away from a 23rd Test century, the leggie slowed his pace a little, gave the ball a bit more air and tempted India’s captain into a drive outside off-stump, edging to Stokes at first slip.
Kohli, dismissed for only the second time in the nineties in Test cricket, was livid. Rashid looked like he could scarcely believe what had happened.
Introducing Rishabh Pant
India’s 20-year-old keeper-batsman has a strike-rate of 95 in first-class cricket so perhaps it should have come as no great surprise that his first scoring shot in Test cricket was a six. Nonetheless, it was a wonderfully audacious start to Pant’s international career in whites, as he skipped down the wicket to Rashid and lofted him straight over his head, becoming the 12th batsman in history to open their Test account with a six. He continued to play his shots, finishing the day 22 not out. Expect further fireworks on day two.