4th Test, Day 1 Highlights: Bowlers give India the edge after Thakur's quick-fire 57 powers them to 191
A counter-attacking 57 off 36 balls from Shardul Thakur and a stroke-filled 50 from skipper Virat Kohli powered the Indian team to 191 runs in the first innings of the fourth Test at The Oval in London. A clinical bowling performance from the home team led by a four-wicket haul from Chris Woakes resulted in the Indian side tottering at 127/7 before a cameo from Thakur propelled them to a fighting total in the first innings.
In reply, England ended the day on 53/3, trailing by 138 runs, courtesy of a brilliant spell from Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav. While Bumrah wreaked havoc with two wickets in the over to dismiss the openers, Yadav accounted for Joe Root to give India a slight edge heading into Day 2.
With overcast conditions on offer, Root won the toss and elected to field first. It was a contrasting start for both sides in the first hour of play. While the opening combination of KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma started the innings steadily by amassing 28 runs in the first seven overs, England bounced back by picking up the vital wicket of Rohit for 11 to dent the batting unit.
Making a comeback to the national side, Woakes created an immediate impact as a back on the length induced a healthy edge off Rohit in his first over. The wicket stemmed the flow of runs for the visiting side as the quick bowlers bowled a consistent line and length to trouble the top order of the Indian side.
With six consecutive maidens after a steady first seven overs, the Indian team were under pressure from the relentless bowling unit of England. The home team were rewarded for their immaculate consistency as Rahul was adjudged plumb in front by a ball coming in from Ollie Robinson in the first over after drinks.
With the team tottering at 28/2, the onus was on Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli to guide the team to safety in these testing conditions. However, Pujara was undone by a perfect outswinger from James Anderson resulting in the Indian team being in disarray at 39/3 in the first session.
The visiting side deployed a strange strategy by promoting Ravindra Jadeja to number five to stabilise the innings along with Kohli. The duo added 30 runs for the fourth wicket before the southpaw was caught by Root to give Woakes his second wicket of the innings.
Despite wickets tumbling at the other end, Kohli crafted his way to a well-compiled half-century. En route to this crucial innings, he became the fastest player to reach 23000 runs in international cricket. He enthralled the fans with an array of strokes all around the ground, including his trademark cover drives and recorded fluent 50 to give the innings much-needed impetus.
However, similar to the last innings at Headingley, Robinson accounted for his wicket soon after reaching the milestone to derail to Indian innings. With half the side dismissed for 105 runs, Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant joined forces to bail the team out of this challenging situation. However, the duo were dismissed on either side to tea to give the home team a massive advantage.
With the team struggling at 127/7, Thakur took the attack to the opposition with strokes all around the ground. Targeting the straighter boundaries, the 29-year old stitched a vital 63-run partnership with Umesh Yadav for the eighth wicket to propel the team to 191 runs in the first innings. Making a comeback to the playing XI for this game, Thakur notched up his second half-century en route to this crucial stand.
However, his wicket ended India's resistance as the team were all out for 191 runs. With the game firmly in the balance, the visiting side will have to produce a magical performance on Day 2 to restrict the England team to a low score in the first innings.