Ishant takes three to put India on top

At stumps on the first day of the fifth Test at the Oval, the home side was 198 for seven, having ambled along at just over two runs an over.

Ishant Sharma took three for 28 as wickets fell in a heap in the evening.   -  GETTY IMAGES

At one point on Friday afternoon, India's bowlers must have wondered if the universe had conspired against them.

Two catches had been put down, the batsmen had played and missed some two dozen times, and England was, incredibly, only one down going into tea.

Any prayers said during the interval, though, were answered soon after. Ishant Sharma took three for 28 as wickets fell in a heap in the evening.

At stumps on the first day of the fifth Test at the Oval, the home side was 198 for seven, having ambled along at just over two runs an over.

READ: Injured or not? Ashwin’s omission not clear

It was a day that will live long in Alastair Cook's memory, as England's departing hero scored a typically gutsy half-century in his final Test match.

Cook's value to this side became quickly apparent in the final session, after he was bowled for 71, chopping Jasprit Bumrah onto the stumps.

It was India's first wicket following 40 overs of toil and the floodgates opened at once. Joe Root lasted all of three balls, head falling over as he was pinned leg-before by an in-ducker from Bumrah.

The ball was full and fast; Root's review was futile. Jonny Bairstow did not get off the mark either, consumed as he was by a delivery from Ishant that straightened just enough after pitching.

The collapse

England had lost three for one in nine balls. Three-quarters of an hour later, Ben Stokes - now in a remodeled, defensive avatar - missed a full ball from Ravindra Jadeja and was trapped in front.

Then, at long last, came Moeen Ali's turn. The left-hander had, by the host broadcaster's estimate, played and missed over 30 times during an extremely unconvincing 50: he was so fortunate he should have bought a lottery ticket on the day.

He finally edged Ishant behind. Two balls later, Sam Curran, a player whose sight India will be sick of, was out in strange fashion, getting a faint nick on a ball as he shouldered arms. England had lost six for 48 in just under 20 overs.

READ: Virat Kohli: 'I don't play for people, perceptions or reputations'

In the morning, Joe Root won the toss for the fifth time this series - "I need a coin with heads on both sides," Virat Kohli joked - and elected to bat first. India made two changes, replacing R. Ashwin and Hardik Pandya with Ravindra Jadeja and G. Hanuma Vihari.

Cook gets guard of honour

Walking out to bat before a packed house, Cook received a guard of honour from India's players, and a warm handshake from the rival captain.

He made full use of his chances as Bumrah went off target: one short and wide delivery was cut to the point boundary, and another was pulled to the fence at mid-wicket.

A full ball from Ishant was clipped off the pads. Cook has made a career out of playing these shots; he was not going to miss out. England's openers added adding 60 for the first wicket – their best stand this series.

At lunch, England was 68 for one in 28 overs, Keaton Jennings having been dismissed by Jadeja.

READ: Vihari – first India player from Andhra in 19 years

India came flying out of the blocks after the break, attacking Cook and Ali with some sharp, accurate bowling. They were both dropped in the space of four balls, though, minutes after lunch.

On 37, Cook prodded at Ishant, and the ball went straight to Ajinkya Rahane, who was in a wide fourth-slip position. He put it down.

The chance that Ali (on two) offered off Bumrah's bowling was much harder, Kohli having to dive to his left at third slip.

Shami then bowled nine excellent overs on the trot, conceding only 14 runs. Ali somehow survived a tough examination from the Bengal bowler, playing and missing repeatedly.

On another day, Shami would have picked up a handful of wickets. England battled away, though, scoring at under two an over, but surviving.

Cook completed his 57th Test match half-century with a punch down the ground and the Oval rose as one to applaud him.

It was the first fifty by any opener this series. Nobody was grudging Cook that honour.