Ashwin scalps four to leave England wobbling at 285/9

Ashwin eventually finished with four for 60 from 25 overs, and was India's best bowler on the day. His success suggests that a second spinner may have been selected, even if Kohli likes to insist that there is no regretting such decisions.

India's Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates after bowling England's Alaistar Cook on the first day of the first Test match at Edgbaston.   -  Getty Images

The game had been drifting away from India on Wednesday afternoon. The sun was out, Joe Root had smiled and stroked his way to an unruffled 80, Jonny Bairstow had galloped to a half-century, and Hardik Pandya was bowling — to put it charitably — a mediocre spell. The mood changed in a trice. Bairstow nudged Ravichandran Ashwin into the on-side and turned for a second run. Virat Kohli sprinted after the ball, picked it up, spun around, and hurled it in from the outfield — all in one motion. The throw found the stumps at the bowler's end and Root was run out by a couple of yards. For once he was not smiling.

Scoreboard and as it happened

On such moments of brilliance do matches turn. England had been motoring along swimmingly after tea, on 216 for three and without a care in the world, when India's captain roused his team awake. Not long after, Bairstow dragged Umesh Yadav on for an 88-ball-70. Jos Buttler was trapped leg-before second ball by Ashwin, and Ben Stokes handed the same bowler a simple return catch. Four wickets had fallen for 27 runs in less than a dozen overs.

At stumps on the opening day of the first Test at Edgbaston, England was 285 for nine, having lost six wickets in the final session.

Before all the drama, though, India had been less than impressive. In the morning, under bright skies, Root won the toss and at once chose to bat first, convinced that the surface was easy-paced and benign. Kohli fielded three pace bowlers and one spinner in Ashwin, while omitting Cheteshwar Pujara for K.L. Rahul at one-drop.

 

Umesh and Ishant Sharma grabbed the new ball, and they did not thrill. Umesh strayed in line and was punished; when Ishant did create an opening half an hour in, drawing an edge from Jennings, Ajinkya Rahane dropped the chance at fourth slip.

Kohli threw on Ashwin in the seventh over. It may have seemed early but the off-spinner made an immediate impact. He castled Alastair Cook with a peach of a delivery in his second over, the ball pitching on or just outside leg before spitting past his outside edge to hit the top of off-stump.

Ashwin eventually finished with four for 60 from 25 overs, and was India's best bowler on the day. His success suggests that a second spinner may have been selected, even if Kohli likes to insist that there is no regretting such decisions.

Joe Root's wait for his 14th Test century continued as he was run out for 80.   -  Getty Images

 

Root and Jennings took England safely through to lunch but on the other side of it, Mohammed Shami struck. The Bengal seamer has played only six games of competitive cricket — four of them in the IPL — since the third Test against South Africa in January, but he showed no signs of rust here.

About an hour after lunch, he got rid of Jennings, who was perhaps unfortunate in that the ball squeezed through his legs, hit a divot and rolled back onto the stumps. It was the breakthrough India needed, snapping a stand of 72.

Read: Root quickest to 6,000 Test runs in terms of time

A quarter of an hour later, Shami excised Malan with an in-ducker that struck him high on the pads. England was three down for 112 and it felt like the sort of moment when a wicket would put India firmly on top. But this is a powerful middle-order and Root, who looked in silken touch, allied with Bairstow to add 104 runs for the third wicket in 23 overs.

The tea break came and went. India's bowling lacked incision and as Pandya wheeled away without hope, England seemed firmly in control. Until Kohli decided to intervene.