India on top despite Bairstow-Buttler resistance

Jonathan Bairstow top-scored with a gritty 89 as Indian bowlers Jayant Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and Umesh Yadav took two wickets each on first day of the third Test match at Mohali on Saturday.

Jonathan Bairstow's 89 proved that he could bat in Indian conditions better than most of his more illustrious teammates.   -  Reuters

It was the kind of day that must have left the rival skippers with mixed feelings. Virat Kohli must be thanking his stars. After all, the poor catching and fielding did not cost much. At stumps, India had more reasons to be pleased as England’s tally stood at 268 for eight on first day of the third Test match at Mohali on Saturday.

>Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

After batting by choice, Alastair Cook watched with fingers crossed as England rallied from 87 for four in the first session and survived to fight another day.

Progressively, should the pitch deteriorate, England’s first innings tally could dictate the course of the match. The pitch, subject of much scrutiny in the context of the series as it stands, held no demon. The bounce was expectedly slow and low but not alarmingly variable. No doubt, it should increasingly help the slower bowlers.

>Slideshow: Day One in pictures

England owes it to Jonathan Bairstow, whose 89 proved instrumental in keeping the side on course of an effective, if not imposing, 300-plus total.

Walking in scores of 46, 53 and 34 not out in the last three innings, Bairstow proved that he could bat in Indian conditions better than most of his more illustrious team-mates. But on this day, he showed why he averages over 40 runs per Test innings. He was patient when the Indian spinners bowled a disciplined line. On the other hand, all his six boundaries came off the slower bowlers.

>Read: Bairstow happy to repay captain's faith

Bairstow held together a crumbling innings with four successive partnerships – 36 runs with Moeen Ali for the fourth-wicket, 57 with Chris Woakes for the fifth, 69 with Jos Buttler for the sixth and 45 with Chris Woakes for the seventh – as these raised 197 runs and frustrated India.

>Read: Jos Buttler rues missed opportunity for England

His stroke selection was a lesson to some of his team-mates who chose valour over discretion and found their way to doom. He escaped at 54 when Parthiv Patel missed a stumping opportunity. Again, on 89, Patel missed a catch. The second ‘miss’ did not cost India as he was out leg-before off the next delivery and became Jayant Yadav’s second victim of the day.

In the first session, England stared at serious trouble with neither the pitch nor the Indian bowling doing much. Barring Haseeb Hameed — who was surprised by the one that kicked from short of good length and ballooned off the glove into the waiting hands of Ajinkya Rahane at gully — the other three wickets in the pre-lunch session were due to batsmen’s error of judgement.

Twice dropped off Mohammed Shami, Cook couldn’t be ‘third-time’ lucky. After Ravindra Jadeja missed a flier at slip and R. Ashwin dropped a sitter at short midwicket, Patel pouched a snick off Ashwin. In fact, Cook's departure was a double blow for England within six deliveries of Joe Root’s wicket. The dependable batsman played all-over a delivery that came slowly off the pitch and caught him plumb in front.

The second session, considered to be the best for batting, saw an addition of 111 runs for the loss of Stokes’s wicket. The post-tea session went India’s way with three wickets – including one to the second new ball taken after 86.1 overs – falling for 63 runs.