Chris Woakes leads England’s charge with ball, India under-par despite rapid fifty from Shardul Thakur
England 53 for 3 (Malan 26*, Bumrah 2-15) trail India 191 (Thakur 57, Kohli 50, Woakes 4-55, Robinson 3-38) by 138 runs
India were bowled out cheaply on the first day for the second Test in a row but retained a foothold after taking three England wickets in the late-afternoon sunshine at The Oval.
England had chosen to bowl after winning the toss in overcast conditions but were basking in hazy sunshine by the time their openers headed out midway through the final session. But three late wickets – both openers falling to Jasprit Bumrah and Joe Root castled by Umesh Yadav – left them teetering at 53 for 3 by the close.
Much of England’s early success came from bowling dry. They had initially struggled to find swing with the lacquer still on the new ball – James Anderson conceded 20 in his first four overs and was punished for overpitching – but Robinson and Woakes rarely erred from a good length and strung together seven consecutive maidens with the score on 28.
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Those maidens included the dismissals of both openers. Woakes, back to fitness after a freak heel injury suffering slipping down a flight of stairs, had the ball swinging immediately and induced an outside edge; Rohit Sharma had been leaving fuller balls, but Woakes dragged his length back and had him caught behind by Jonny Bairstow, keeping wicket with Jos Buttler absent on paternity leave.
And after an immaculate new-ball spell, Robinson had KL Rahul trapped lbw with a nip-backer. The decision was upheld via the DRS but only thanks to Richard Illingworth’s earlier on-field call; Rahul was nearly outside the line as he was hit on the back pad, but ball-tracking said umpire’s call.
Anderson’s second spell was a significant improvement, and he had Cheteshwar Pujara feathering an edge behind to Bairstow. Kohli looked in fine touch earlier on, but the main talking point over the lunch interval was the promotion of Ravindra Jadeja to No. 5 – seemingly to break up the run of right-hand batters in India’s middle order.
Kohli was given a life on 22 by Root, who put down a chance at first slip off Woakes – though arguably Rory Burns, at second, should have gone for the catch to his left, since Root saw it late and had to move a long way to his right. Root made amends of sorts in Woakes’ next over, hanging onto another tough chance off Jadeja’s outside edge, but Kohli’s fluency was ominous for England.
After soaking up 10 consecutive dot balls, Kohli was anxious to score and shaped to turn a length ball into the leg side, but Robinson’s unerring line and length did not allow him to do so. Instead, he found a hint of nip away off the seam, taking Kohli’s outside edge and leaving India reeling at 105 for 5.
Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant, both under pressure after poor tours, fell after contrasting innings: Rahane tentative throughout, steering Overton to third slip where Moeen Ali clung onto a low chance; Pant frenetic, skipping down to hack Woakes’ slower ball to mid-off, three balls after Overton had put him down in the slips.
That left Thakur – brought back into the side with Mohammed Shami ruled out with a niggle, Ishant Sharma dropped and R Ashwin overlooked yet again – as the last batter of any note and he decided the only way to go was to attack. He swung hard, thumping Overton for six over mid-off and tucking into Woakes, smiting him for six fours and a six.
Thakur rode his luck throughout, dropped on 43 after gloving a pull to Bairstow and with several shots falling just short of fielders, but flat-batted Robinson back over his head for four then pulled his next ball for six to reach a 31-ball fifty – the second-fastest by an India batter – which he greeted with a triumphant roar. He was pinned by Woakes, out lbw on review, shortly after, before Bumrah was run out and Umesh Yadav edged behind as India lost their last three wickets in the space of four balls.
Bumrah blew the game back open by removing both England openers in the space of five balls, finding extra bounce from just short of a length. Rory Burns looked to play late but inside-edged onto his own stumps, and Haseeb Hameed’s attempted back-cut only managed to divert a short ball into Pant’s gloves.
Root and Dawid Malan rebuilt with some fluency from 6 for 2, punishing any width on either side of the wicket in a stand of 46 in 11.3 overs, but Root’s dismissal late in the day – bowled by an inch-perfect nip-backer from Umesh, which beat his inside edge and kissed the top of his off stump – could yet prove to be a significant moment, keeping India in the game. Overton was sent in as nightwatchman and Ollie Pope, recalled in Buttler’s place on his home ground, will be due in at No. 6.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98