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India claw back after Jennings debut ton

Wisden India logo Wisden India 08-12-2016

The Johannesburg-born Keaton Jennings scored an assured 112 on debut – the eighth visiting batsman to do so in India – but a superb spell from R Ashwin after tea hauled India back into contention at the Wankhede Stadium. England, who had gone to tea with the scoreboard showing a rudely healthy 196 for 2, stuttered to 288 for 5 by stumps on Thursday’s (December 8) day one of the first Test, with Ben Stokes (25) and Jos Buttler (18) holding fort.

Jennings hadn’t even scored when Karun Nair put down a difficult chance high to his left at gully off Umesh Yadav, and then survived a confident leg-before shout from Bhuvneshwar Kumar when he had made just 10. Bruce Oxenford turned down the appeal, and India went for the review, only to see the point of contact outside off-stump ruled as ‘umpire’s call’.

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By then, Bhuvneshwar had already been warned for running on to the danger area mid-pitch, and Alastair Cook took advantage with a gorgeous straight drive that appeared to settle English nerves. Ashwin came on in the eighth over, but with Jennings growing in confidence, the first session belonged to England.

Jennings played a couple of crisp cover-drives, while Cook clipped and drove Ashwin for fours as the run rate mounted in accordance with Trevor Bayliss’s desire for the batsmen to show more intent. A sweep to fine-leg brought up Jennings’s half-century in 89 balls, and Cook looked set to follow suit as he stepped out and drove Jayant Yadav for four.

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Virat Kohli had held Ravindra Jadeja back until the 26th over, but his impact was immediate. Trying to repeat what he did to Jayant, Cook sashayed down the pitch and was stumped by a distance. He made 46 from just 60 balls. But with Jennings sweeping Jadeja for four and Joe Root content to rotate the strike, England went to lunch at 117 for 1.

After the interval, Root drove Ashwin through the covers, but another attempt to force against the turn merely flew off the edge to first slip. There was no Ajinkya Rahane there, but Kohli reacted sharply to take the chance low to his left.

Moeen Ali had made just one when a casual chip to Jadeja fell just short of a slow-to-react Cheteshwar Pujara at midwicket, and Jennings then upped the ante with reverse-swept fours off both Jayant and Jadeja. At that stage, Bhuvneshwar’s errant lob from the deep incapacitated Paul Reiffel, leading to a lengthy delay and Marais Erasmus taking his place.

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The luckless Umesh, who has had more dropped catches than wickets to show for his toil in this series, then drew an edge from Moeen that brushed Kohli’s fingertips on its way to the rope at third ma-, and the Barmy Army raised the noise levels a few decibels as a reverse sweep for four off Jayant took Jennings to a century in 186 balls.

At tea, despite the odd ball raising puffs of dust and turning sharply, India were under the pump and in need of inspiration. Jayant saw an edge off Moeen’s bat fall just short of Kohli, either side of him pulling and chipping Jadeja for fours. Both left-hand batsmen targeted Jayant with the sweep, and Jennings had moved to 111 when Kohli put down a fierce cut at slip.

After that, things happened in a hurry. Moeen eased to a half-century in 102 balls, but when Ashwin returned to the fray, his sweep flew off the top edge to Nair. The partnership had been worth 94 from 192 deliveries. Two balls later, Jennings was squared up, and the edge carried to short gully where Pujara took a smart catch.



Jonny Bairstow clipped Jayant for four, but Ashwin’s second ball after the final drinks break, pitched on leg stump, was then hoicked to square-leg where Umesh made no mistake. 

By then, positive intent had given way to survival instincts. Each of the spinners extracted dramatic turn, and neither Stokes nor Buttler tried to force the issue. Stokes scored just two off the first 30 balls he faced.

On 19, Stokes survived a vociferous shout from Jadeja. Again, the point of contact saved the batsman as India used up a review, and Stokes relieved some of the pressure with a wristy glance that sped away for four. Ashwin, who now has 19 wickets for the series, came back for one last salvo, but England negotiated it safely enough as the curtain came down on an utterly compelling day of Test cricket.

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