IND vs ENG: Ashwin, Axar put India in front on day one

India's spinners shared eight wickets as England was bundled out for 205. Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma took the host to 24/1 at stumps.

Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel once again wreaked havoc on the England batting line-up.   -  AP

The nature of the pitch changed drastically from last week’s dustbowl. The colour of the ball returned to conventional red from the experimental pink. The turnout at Motera was modest, if not meagre, compared to the 40,000 plus spectators who thronged the stadium on the opening day of the third Test. 

Despite the changing trend on all these counts, England’s lacklustre show against quality spin remained a constant. Having won the toss in the series-concluding fourth Test, England folded for 205 on day one. India’s spin trio of R. Ashwin, Axar Patel and Washington Sundar yet again shared eight wickets to put India in a commanding position.

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James Anderson, the lone specialist pacer in England’s attack, - Stuart Broad making way for offie Dom Bess and Jofra Archer unavailable due to recurrence of the elbow injury - saw the back of Shubman Gill for a duck in the opening over. But Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara guided India to 24 for 1 at stumps, with Anderson bowling five maidens on a trot.

India’s batsmen will have to ensure they don’t make the same mistakes as their English counterparts and run away with the game to seal the World Test Championship spot.

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Spinning a web

If Axar had struck off his first ball after being introduced into the attack in the seventh over last week, it took the lanky left-arm spinner two balls to make inroads after Virat Kohli turned to him at the start of the sixth over. Dom Sibley had no answers to a straight-one that took the inside-edge of his bat and crashed into the stumps.

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In the next over, Axar beat Zak Crawley in flight. It resulted in Crawley attempting to clear mid-off and holing out to Mohammed Siraj.

Siraj comes good

Siraj then justified his inclusion over seasoned Umesh Yadav by beating Joe Root with pace. At 30 for three, England was in danger of another collapse but Ben Stokes played fluently with able support from Bairstow.

Just when the partnership seemed to have stabilised, Siraj struck soon after lunch, jagging one back to trap Bairstow in front. The spinners then took over, with Washington getting Stokes out lbw in the last half hour of the second session. Stokes's fifty was studded with delightful strokes. While the left-handed batsman welcomed Ashwin into the attack with a six over long-off, his whip after using the feet against India's spin spearhead was one of the strokes of the day.

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At 144 for five at tea, despite England bolstering its batting with Dan Lawrence as the seventh batsman, it became evident that India would bat on the opening day itself. Axar and Ashwin shared the remaining five wickets and England crossed the 200-run mark before being skittled 75 minutes into the evening session.

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