Brief Scores: England 112 (Zak Crawley 53; Axar Patel 6-38) lead India 99/3 (Rohit Sharma 57*) by 13 runs.
The Pink Ball Test match had India firmly in the lead by the end of Day 1 at the Motera in Ahmedabad despite England winning the toss and opting to bat first. It took a little over two sessions for the Indians to bowl out the visitors for just 112 runs, following which Rohit Sharma took over and raced away to an unbeaten 57. At 99 for 3, and only 13 runs behind, the Indian team will be hoping to bat out at least two more sessions and extend their lead towards the 200-run mark.
The Englishmen struggled against the duo of Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin on a wearing track, as the slower bowlers picked up 9 wickets between them. The batters failed to read the straighter deliveries as well, as they remained bamboozled and ended with their second lowest total in a Test match against India.
We look at the major talking points from Day 1 of the game:
The two teams read the pitch differently
At the toss, the biggest surprise was the team combination that the two sides went in with. While India played three spinners, with Washington Sundar replacing Kuldeep Yadav, the English team played just one slower bowler in Jack Leach and went in with three seamers in James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer (four, if you count Ben Stokes). Either it was a case of backing your strengths or one team had misread the pitch drastically, and by the end of Day 1, it was certain that England failed to get their strategy right.
India read the pitch conditions perfectly for the Pink Ball Test and have a huge advantage on a wicket that has already started turning. Axar Patel was excellent with his release points and Ravichandran Ashwin got the ball to drift, as the two bowlers picked up 9 wickets between them, with Sundar not sending down a single over.
There are visible puffs on the track, which is expected to deteriorate further, and it will hardly have anything on offer for the faster bowlers. The Englishmen sent down 33 overs on Day 1, with Leach bowling 10, and it will not be a surprise if Joe Root – the only other spinner, albeit part-time – is seen bowling in tandem with Leach on Day 2.
Rohit Sharma makes batting look easy again
On a wicket that was not the easiest to bat on, Indian opener Rohit Sharma once again provided a lesson for the English players on batting on tricky pitches. After scoring a fine 161 in the second Chennai Test on a wicket that can be termed as a “turner”, Rohit started off the innings in the Pink Ball Test slowly and gave himself time to adapt to the conditions. He was on 11 off his first 30 balls but raced away to 39 off the next 33, and brought up his 12th Test fifty in the process. Rohit has now amassed 947 runs in 10 games in the World Test Championship, with the help of four tons and 2 fifties.
Rohit was a treat to watch, especially as he pulled the trio of Archer, Broad and Anderson with ease. He tried to sweep Leach as well but was more cautious against him as he waited patiently for the loose deliveries to play his strokes. He looks all set for another big one, and the visiting side will be hoping to send him back early on Day 2.
Umpires call, soft signals and lack of replay time
Not surprisingly, the DRS and the third umpire were in the news yet again – not for the first time in the series. While the umpires call saved helped both teams on the day, the England team will feel undone by the lack of replay time from third umpire C. Shamshuddin on two occasions. In the first, Indian opener Shubman Gill edged one to slips off the bowling of Stuart Broad as Ben Stokes latched onto the catch. The soft signal was given out, which meant that the TV umpire needed enough evidence to rule the decision as not out.
Though replays clearly showed that Stokes had grassed the ball before latching on the catch, the bigger debate was how just one replay from a single camera angle was seen before overturning the decision. The same issue occurred just minutes before the close of play as well, after Rohit Sharma had been stumped by Ben Foakes.
Shamshuddin consulted just one visual before ruling Rohit as not out. Why was just one angle seen and why did he consult the angle just once? Unlike the Gill catch, this decision was not as easy as Rohit’s feet were quite close to the line. Should Shamshuddin have taken more time before making a decision? Probably, and it was only fair that the English players felt hard done by.
Zak Crawley returns to the team in style
Crawley, who missed the first two Tests due to an injury, raced away to a breezy fifty even as his other teammates struggled for runs. The batsman hit 42 of his first 50 runs through the cover and mid-wicket, and displayed some breathtaking cricket shots.
Crawley, playing just his 17th innings in Test cricket, has batted at four different spots, but he seems to have settled at the top of the order quite well. On a day when the rest of the players from his team struggled, Crawley showed how the right mindset and a positive approach can help a player conquer even the toughest situations. He ended up scoring 53 of the total score of 112 in the Pink Ball Test.