England may still be newly embracing 'Bazball' but they were served with another brutal reminder of 'Pantball' - a phenomenon that often catches oppositions off-guard when they are plotting an early finish to India's innings and least expecting it. The Oval, 2018. Sydney, 2019. Chennai, 2021. Add Edgbaston, 2022 to the list too.
For all the talk of the first day of the fifth Test at Edgbaston being a day for bowlers to be dominated, some of it was justified when England reduced India to 98-5 but Rishabh Pant took the pitch and the overcast conditions out of the equation to blaze his way to a 111-ball 146, a knock that included 19 boundaries and four sixes. By the time he was back in the sheds, India were in a healthy position of 320-6 and shortly ended a rain-effected first day with 338-7.
Earlier in the day, the two sides headed into the final Test of a series that began in August 2021, but was postponed due to a Covid outbreak, with unfinished business as India look to seal their first Test series win in the country since 2007 with England aiming for series parity.
Ben Stokes won the toss and inserted India to bat first hoping to exploit the superior bowling conditions and continue their excellent chasing record from their 3-0 series win over New Zealand recently. Shubhman Gill looked in sublime touch as he silked four classy boundaries before eding to Zak Crawley at second slip off James Anderson in the seventh over.
Cheteshwar Pujara, opening the batting in the absence of Covid-stricken Rohit Sharma, was out in a similar fashion before Hanuma Vihari, India's No. 3, was hit plumb on the knee roll to be adjudged LBW off Matthew Potts in the 23rd over. Two overs later, Potts returned to bag Virat Kohli, looking to leave but withdrawing his bat late to outside edge it onto his stumps.
Shreyas Iyer struck three boundaries but was caught down the leg side courtesy a Sam Billings' one-handed blinder to depart for 15.
Thereon, Pant and Ravindra Jadeja led India's fightback with a record-partnership of 222 for the sixth wicket, India's highest against England. Pant was the aggressor as he reached his fifth Test hundred, his third against England and the fastest at the venue off just 89 deliveries as he regularly danced down the pitch to left-arm spinner Jack Leach, lofting him over long-on, and even reverse scooped Anderson over the slips. In the process, he also brought up 2000 Test runs.
In a league of his own today 🤩@RishabhPant17 dazzled with a magnificent century to pull 🇮🇳 out of dire straits on Day 1️⃣— SonyLIV (@SonyLIV) July 1, 2022
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Jadeja ably supported Pant as he struck 10 boundaries to bring up his 17th half-century and will be eager to push on for his third Test century as India eye a first innings score north of 400.
It's Sir Jadeja's turn to raise the bat ✨— Sony Sports Network (@SonySportsNetwk) July 1, 2022
A crucial Fifty for #Jadeja in what's been a tremendous partnership together with #RishabhPant 🔥
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"The only thing we discussed with Rahul Dravid bhai was that I should play one ball at a time and not focus too much on other things," Pant explained his approach at the post-day press conference.