The visitors were made to bowl first after England skipper Joe Root won the toss and they then went on to spoil the hosts’ party in their 1,000th Test. England were 285-9 when stumps were drawn at Edgbaston as India’s bowlers came roaring back into the match.
Here, we look at the key talking points from Wednesday’s play at Birmingham.
SPIN BRINGS INDIA THE FIRST BREAKTHROUGH
Overcast conditions and a tinge of grass covering on the Edgbaston pitch might have indicated that it was the pacers who would find most joy in the Test. That thinking was even echoed in Virat Kohli’s team selection as India went in with Ravichandran Ashwin featuring as the lone-spinner.
However, India’s pacers struggled to get their radar right in the opening session.
Spin gave India the breakthrough with Kohli’s decision to throw the ball to Ashwin early into England’s innings paying dividends. Alastair Cook fell to the off-spinner for the eighth time in his career as early as the ninth over of the innings. The England opener fell to a peach of an off-spinner that drifted towards the middle stump before spinning past the outside edge to knock the off stump.
To see an off-spinner do that on the first day of a Test in England was definitely an unusual sight.
MOHAMMED SHAMI FINDS HIS RADAR WITH DOUBLE JOLT
After Cook’s early dismissal and the failure of Ajinkya Rahane to grab onto a chance at fourth slip, Keaton Jennings and Joe Root steadied the ship for England with a 72-run stand that threatened to take the game away from India.
Fortunately for the visitors, Shami found rhythm in the second session of play. The India pacer broke the threatening second–wicket stand with a short ball that Jennings somehow managed to direct back to his stumps.
In his very next over, Shami struck again for India with Dawid Malan being the victim this time. The England batsman was adjudged leg before wicket to an incoming delivery and even a review wasn’t enough to save him.
That double-strike pulled India right back into the game after it seemed to be slipping away from their grasp.
ROOT AND BAIRSTOW POWER ENGLAND ON WITH CONTRASTING FIFTIES
After Shami’s double jolt had broken England’s momentum, Root and Jonny Bairstow got together and took the attack to India’s bowlers in contrasting styles.
While Root caressed his way to a big score, Bairstow was on a roll. The latter cut and drove with intent even as some of the edges flew past the slip fielders.
The pair put on century stand in no time with both the batsmen notching up their respective half-centuries. While Root’s strike-rate hovered around the 50 mark, Bairstow took just 72 deliveries to register his half-century. Root, meanwhile, continued his trend of performing against India with his half-century on Wednesday being his 12th in as many matches against the opponents.
ROOT’S RUN-OUT OPENS THE FLOODGATES
With Root and Bairstow going strong in the final session, England seemed to be headed towards taking the first day honours. All that changed in the blink of an eye when the England skipper was run-out by a direct hit from Virat Kohli. Bairstow called for a second run after tucking an Ashwin delivery towards mid-wicket. By the time Root could get back to safety at the non-striker’s end, Kohli had completed a sensational run-out with a direct hit.
It was poor judgment by the English pair as Root would have struggled to get home even without a direct hit. While Kohli cheekily celebrated the wicket by mimicking Root’s mic-drop pose, the England skipper’s conversion woes continued with his 80-run knock now being the 11th half-century he has scored on the bounce without registering a single ton.
His wicket opened up the floodgates for England with Bairstow joining him back in the pavilion after dragging an Umesh Yadav delivery on to his stumps. The procession turned into a collapse when Jos Buttler was dismissed for a duck by Ashwin who then went on to get the better of Ben Stokes too.
The visitors, chasing 245 for victory, were helped by a 91-run opening partnership between de Kock and Hashim Amla, who hit 43. They reached the target with more than seven overs to spare and thus took a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
Captain Faf du Plessis made a valuable 49 after Sri Lankan spinner Akila Dananjaya (3-60) raised the hosts’ hopes.
Earlier, Proteas pacers Lungi Ngidi and Andile Phehlukwayo picked up three wickets each to restrict Sri Lanka to 244-8 in 50 overs.
Skipper Angelo Mathews made 79 off 111 balls while Niroshan Dickwella made 69 to give the Sri Lankan total respectability after they elected to bat first.
“Excellent bowling performance, seemed like Sri Lanka would get 280-300 but we kept getting wickets,” Du Plessis said after the win.
“We kept pulling it back even with them having a set batsman. Plans were good and the execution was great,” he added.
“We give away too many wickets upfront and were always playing catch up since then. Never got going at all with the bat,” said skipper Mathews.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t hold onto the catches as well because you need to take those when you are defending such a score. The bowlers did fairly well but we didn’t field properly. Need to put it aside and move forward … There are some positives and we can still stay alive in the series if we win the next game.”
The 48-year-old was on Wednesday announced as an expert commentator for Macquarie Sports Radio.
Lehmann was one of the casualties of the ball-tampering saga that rocked Australian cricket earlier this year. The infamous incident which occurred in Cape Town during Australia’s tour of South Africa saw Steve Smith and David Warner being handed one-year bans from international and domestic cricket by Cricket Australia.
Chief protagonist Cameron Bancroft was given a nine-month suspension.
Following the aftermath of the scandal, Lehmann tendered in his resignation from the head coach’s role. He was subsequently replaced by his former Australia team-mate Justin Langer.
The former coach will now appear as an expert commentator on Macquarie Sports Radio’s Summer of Cricket show.
“I’m excited to be joining Macquarie Radio’s Summer of Cricket and can’t wait to get started,” Lehmann stated.
“It’s a great team and we’re going to have a lot of fun. It’s an opportunity for me to share an insight into how the Australian team runs and the intricacies of each player.
“I love the game I played and coached and want to see it continue to grow. I love the players; always have and always will. Go Aussies!”
Since resigning from his post with the Australian men’s team, Lehmann has been working with the country’s budding young cricketers at the Bupa National Cricket Centre in Brisbane. His tenure with Cricket Australia is slated to run until October this year.