Jennings, Ashwin steal the show

Keaton Jennings of England scored a century on debut, while India’s off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin picked up four wickets. These were the highlights of the first day of the fourth Test at the Wankhede Stadium.

Keaton Jennings is the first English batsman to score a century in his debut innings in India.   -  K. R. Deepak

Debutant Keaton Jennings of England scored a century, while India’s off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin picked up four wickets. These were the main events on the first day, as Test cricket returned to the Wankhede Stadium after a gap of three years.

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There was a heartening buzz around the traditional version of the game — a format that the keen followers of the game want to save at all cost from the threat of the growing popularity of T20 cricket. A goodly crowd at the venue, chanting and making merry, was a good sign. The footfall at the Wankhede Stadium increased as the day progressed.

 

After England captain >Alastair Cook won the toss and elected to bat, there was confirmation that the in-form seamer, Mohammed Shami, has been rested, with >Bhuvneshwar Kumar playing in his place; that Karun Nair is also in the playing XI and K. L. Rahul, having recovered well enough, will open the innings with Murali Vijay.

SLIDESHOW: >Day One in pictures

What was memorable in the six hours of play on the first day of the fourth Test was England opener Jennings, making his Test debut, challenging the Indian spinners like a seasoned campaigner and batting for four-and-a-half hours to score a splendid century (112, 13x4) that was punctuated with bold reverse hits. Jennings, who became the 103rd batsman to score a century on debut, is the 19th batsman from England to make a grand entry into Test cricket with a three-figure knock.

READ: >An innings to remember for Jennings

Riding on Jennings’ composed knock, England — which saw three wickets tumble in the post tea session — finished the opening day at 288 for five.

While the highly-skilled Cook and Jennings gave England a near-perfect start — the openers put on 99 runs — Ashwin came in to bowl from the pavilion end in the eighth over. He pegged away for nine overs before being removed after India’s first DRS call on his appeal turned out unsuccessful. The champion spinner did have a big say in the second and third sessions of an absorbing day’s play.

ALSO READ: >How Ashwin foxed Joe Root

Trailing 2-0 in the five-Test series, England looked to capitalise on the opportunity after the toss went in its favour. The left-handed opening pair batted with confidence though Jennings had a slice of luck even before he had opened his account. Karun Nair, at gully, could not hold on to a tough chance when Jennings played beside the line to Umesh Yadav. Later, a DRS review went in Jennings’ favour.

Cook, too, saw a genuine edge off Bhuvneshwar Kumar race to the third man fence, but very soon he punched a shot straight down the ground and looked to be in control. Nearing half-century, Cook stepped out to hit Ravindra Jadeja with the spin over mid-wicket and was stumped by Parthiv Patel after a clumsy effort to collect the ball.

The opening stand gave England a firm footing, but Ashwin changed the flow of events. He dismissed Joe Root in the eighth over after lunch. Ashwin, perhaps, had set it up by bowling from very close to the stumps to the right-hander. The delivery that induced Root to drive straightened, and Virat Kohli, though moving the wrong way to his right, managed to take the catch two-handed, low to his left.

READ: >Keaton Jennings enters history books

After Cook’s exit almost half an hour before lunch, Ashwin demonstrated craft and cunning but Jennings, who had been raised in the tough environs of Transvaal in South Africa and the North-East County of Durham, and who had come into this Test after scoring a century for England Lions in the UAE, looked at ease. He did not let go the half volleys unpunished and was not afraid to leave his crease.

>Moeen Ali, not only gave Jennings company but also kept the scoreboard ticking. After completing his half-century Moeen top edged Ashwin and the fall of his wicket triggered a minor collapse. Jennings was soon caught at deep gully and Jonathan Bairstow swept to backward square leg. Another wicket would have perhaps made it India’s day, but Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler stood firm to raise hopes of England posting a formidable total on a pitch that is likely to help the spinners in a bigger way.