England fights but India takes honours on Day One

Indian pacers continue from where they had left off; restricting England to 246 in the first innings.

Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma bowled with speed, skill and control, generating enormous swing, and the home team's batting wilted.   -  AFP

India perhaps let things drift in the evening, but for much of Thursday, there was no debating who was on top at the Ageas Bowl.

The touring side's pace bowlers picked up from where they had left off at Trent Bridge to rattle England on the opening day of the fourth Test.

Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma bowled with speed, skill and control, generating enormous swing, and the home team's batting wilted.

At 86 for six in the afternoon, England looked in all sorts of trouble, when Sam Curran intervened. Restored to the side here, the young all-rounder made a bold 78 as India appeared to have taken its foot off the gas briefly.

Curran's contribution dragged England to 246 before India had to face four overs. At stumps, the visitor was 19 without loss.

Bumrah is only playing in his fifth Test here, but he appears a better bowler with every passing match. He finished with three for 46 in his 20 overs, England struggling to come to terms with him.

He and Ishant made an instant impact in the morning after Joe Root had won the toss and elected to bat first and Virat Kohli, for the first time as captain - 39 Tests now - had named an unchanged team.

Struggle continues

It turned out to be a good toss for India to lose. Bumrah struck in his second over, trapping Keaton Jennings leg-before with a big in-swinger. Jennings left the ball alone but - to his surprise - it swung back in and left him looking hopelessly inept.

Root's struggles continued. He could have been out on two when an in-dipper from Bumrah pinned him in front. Bruce Oxenford, the umpire, ruled Root not out and when a confident India reviewed, it turned out that the bowler had over-stepped. The ball, it emerged, would have crashed into middle and leg.

It did not come to matter, for Root added only two more to his score before Ishant dismissed him with a giant in-swinger. After his 80 in the first innings of the first Test, the England captain now has scores of 14, 19, 16, 13 and 4. His exit brought Jonny Bairstow, now promoted to No.4, to the crease.

Relentless attack

The Yorkshireman was squared up by Bumrah with a fine delivery and he edged behind for 6. Things went from bad to worse when Alastair Cook, whose poor form has lasted so long now that it ought to be seen as irreversible decline, tried to steer Hardik Pandya through the third man and ended up handing Kohli a low catch at third slip. At lunch, England was 57 for four and in desperate need of a big partnership.

Ben Stokes looked the best of the home side’s batsmen for a while, as he and Jos Buttler added 31 runs for the fifth wicket. But this is a strong, relentless bowling attack; batsmen have no respite, simply no room for error.

Shami, who had come on second-change earlier and bowled only four overs in the first session, struck early in the second. He pitched the ball up to Buttler despite having been driven through the covers. The batsman duly pushed at one delivery with hard hands and nicked to third slip.

Not long after, Shami accounted for Stokes too, going around the wicket to catch him on the crease with a ball that tailed-in.

India’s bowlers had simply been too good. Shami, who was excellent in the afternoon, bowled a spell of 8-1-25-2 after lunch.

At 86 for six, England looked in dire trouble, but Moeen Ali and Sam Curran stitched together a partnership of 81 for the seventh wicket. Ali, who lofted Ashwin for one six, fell slog-sweeping the same bowler for 40.

Curran, though, hung on and punished India as the intensity in bowling fell. He attacked – like he had at Edgbaston – and the runs flowed. India, however, will be happy with a good day's work.