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Ravichandran Ashwin leads India’s fightback after Keaton Jennings’ maiden ton

Ravichandran Ashwin was the star on Day 1 of the Mumbai Test as England squandered a solid platform that was set up by Keaton Jennings’ century on debut.

cricket Updated: Dec 08, 2016 19:16 IST
Pradeep Magazine
Pradeep Magazine
Hindustan Times
Ravichandran Ashwin,Keaton Jennings,India vs England
Mumbai: Indian spinner R Ashwin celebrates the wicket of Jonny Bairstow(not in pic) on the first day of the fourth Test match against England in Mumbai on Thursday. PTI Photo by Santosh Hirlekar(PTI12_8_2016_000147B)(PTI)

England have in this Test series so far been in situations where they could have taken control of the match and put the Indians through a harrowing time. The fact that they failed to do so, speaks as much of India’s resilient strength as it does of England’s failure to seize the opportunity.

The Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai offered them yet another chance to atone for past lapses and make capital of their luck with the toss and a remarkably assured innings on debut by Keaton Jennings. (SCORECARD)

When a team comes to India, it knows that the wicket is going to turn, offer uneven bounce and become literally unplayable on the final day. Of late, most of them pack their team with spinners and have started even playing three of them in the final XI, something unthinkable a few years back. Yet, most of them have failed to overcome the threat of the spinning ball and succumbed meekly. That is why the performance of Alastair Cook’s team that stunned India the last time they were here, is rated as exceptional.

This time around, they started well but let slip a wonderful opportunity to win the Rajkot Test. It was a combination of Cook’s own conservative mindset that led him to declare late and Virat Kohli’s gritty determination that saved the Test for India. (DAY 1 BLOG)

After that it has been a downhill slide for England, with India weaving a spinning web around the batsmen, who have found the craft and guile of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, too complicated to decode.

Seen in the backdrop of what has transpired so far in the series, India were expected to be the dominant team and England making an effort to just hang on there.

READ | Keaton Jennings, England cricket’s latest opener, slams ton on Wankhede debut

The first opportunity, a godsend, came from the toss of the coin for England. Yet, it was not even half the job done well, as they had to bat decently on a surface that has already started showing signs of not only turn but bounce as well. It is a deadly cocktail, if and when the pitch deteriorates, which it seems it already is.

The great advantage of winning the toss was driven home in the first session when the wicket was at its best behavior, giving hints of turn but not alarming enough to trouble either Cook or Jennings.

READ | Ravichandran Ashwin makes England dance to his tune again

England, despite the loss of Cook and Joe Root, built on the advantage of batting first on a surface increasingly looking to become a vicious turner, and by tea and immediately after, were threatening to swamp India.

While one England prodigy Haseeb Hameed watched from the stands, another opener made his debut and played an innings that could well be the difference between defeat and victory in the Test. Jennings thwarted with a combination of poise and aggression, the spinning missiles thrown at him and in partnership with Moeen, looked set to upset Indian mastery of the conditions.

READ | How umpire Paul Reiffel was knocked out by Bhuvneshwar Kumar at Wankhede Stadium

Ashwin, as he has often done in the past, struck twice in one over, Jennings and Moeen being the victims and after that the ball started finding the edges of the bat with alarming regularity.

As the shadows started lengthening on the ground, it was becoming increasingly obvious that the wicket is spinning and bouncing far more sharply than it has done in the series so far, that too on the first day itself. It is hard to say what could be a comfortable first innings chase on a track like this. Whatever England put up on the board from here onwards, it may not be easy for India to match that score. It is an opportunity England can’t afford to miss.

First Published: Dec 08, 2016 19:16 IST