|India 338-7 (73 overs): Pant 146, Jadeja 83*; Anderson 3-52|
|England: Yet to bat|
A sparkling 146 from India’s Rishabh Pant halted England on day one of the rescheduled fifth Test at Edgbaston.
Pant’s 89-ball hundred rescued the tourists from 98-5 after England’s pacemen relentlessly exploited the movement on offer following captain Ben Stokes’ decision to bowl first.
Wicketkeeper Pant crashed 19 fours and four sixes, playing the sort of thrilling, counter-attacking cricket that took England to a 3-0 series win over New Zealand last month.
Pant was well supported by fellow left-hander Ravindra Jadeja – their stand of 222 is an India record for the sixth wicket in Tests against England and came at almost a run a ball.
When Pant eventually sliced Joe Root’s off-spin to slip, Stokes followed up by removing Shardul Thakur, but Jadeja remains unbeaten on 83, India closing on 338-7.
This final Test in the series was postponed last September with India leading 2-1 after positive cases of Covid-19 among the tourists’ backroom staff.
The efforts of Pant and Jadeja have kept India in the hunt for a first Test series win in England since 2007.
India test new England
This is a fifth Test in name only. Only 11 players survive from the previous match in this series and both teams have a new captain and coach. In India’s case regular skipper Rohit Sharma, appointed in February, is missing because of Covid, with Jasprit Bumrah standing in.
But it is a fresh challenge for Stokes’ ‘new’ England team, whose all-out aggression overwhelmed New Zealand and breathed life into Test cricket in this country.
They initially looked set to do the same to the under-prepared Indians thanks to James Anderson and Matthew Potts, who were superb either side of a two-hour break for rain.
But Pant was providing swashbuckling entertainment in Test cricket long before England’s ‘Bazball’ revolution under coach Brendon McCullum, and Jadeja is one of the fiercest competitors in the game.
Between them, they reversed the momentum of this match, meaning India’s high-quality attack will have enough runs to fully test England’s full-throttle approach to batting.
It is perhaps too soon to form a judgement on Stokes’ decision at the toss. England certainly made the most of morning cloud cover, but by late in the day the pitch looked flat – it could be that the hosts are able to enjoy the best batting conditions over the weekend.
Perfect Pant plays Edgbaston classic
This was a truly memorable effort from Pant, his exhibition of 360-degree stroke play made all the more special by the peril India found themselves in earlier in the day.
He mixed classical drives and punches through the off-side with cavalier charges at the fast bowlers. Spinner Jack Leach was belted for nearly eight an over – one of Pant’s straight sixes was hit with only one hand on the bat.
The only stage Pant showed any discomfort was when he appeared to hurt his hamstring, but his response was to reverse-sweep Anderson over the slips.
Jadeja was the perfect foil, leaving the ball with excellent judgement and only occasionally exploding into a drive or pull. England could have had him caught on five off Stuart Broad, only for the third umpire to rule the ball had not carried to Root at first slip.
After Pant reached three figures he took 46 runs off the next 21 balls he faced and had launched Root for a straight six before edging the next ball to Zak Crawley.
Thakur was bounced out, leaving Jadeja to shield number nine Mohammed Shami, and it is Jadeja’s continued presence that could yet get India close to 400.
England halted after early burst
The way Pant scored runs at will in the evening sunshine was a complete contrast to the way England’s bowlers tormented the tourists in the early going.
Anderson and Potts were laser-guided in their accuracy around off stump, while Stokes marshalled his troops and packed the slip cordon.
Anderson drew Shubman Gill into a loose prod and bowled a beauty that bounced at Cheteshwar Pujara, both men held by second-slip Crawley.
The atmosphere was electric for Anderson’s duel with old foe Virat Kohli, but it was Potts who removed the former skipper, who played on attempting to leave. By that time, Potts had also pinned Hanuma Vihari leg before.
Shreyas Iyer fell victim to a plan seemingly laid by McCullum, his former coach with Kolkata Knight Riders. With a leg slip in place, Anderson targeted the hip, with flying wicketkeeper Sam Billings taking a superb catch down the leg side.
England were rampant, but then ran into the peerless Pant.
‘The game is pretty balanced’ – reaction
India centurion Rishabh Pant, speaking to Test Match Special: “When I’m batting, I’m clear in my head. I just think about one ball at a time.
“The game is pretty balanced right now. They bowled well at the start but we batted well to come back. As long as we get 400 or 450, it will be a good total.
England assistant coach Paul Collingwood: “It was another entertaining day of Test cricket. We started well then we saw a counter-attack from Pant later in the day.
“It’s been a pretty even day and if we can bowl them out for 360-370, we will be happy enough.”
Former India wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta: “This is the best I’ve seen Pant bat. I hope this innings gives him the confidence to bat in a more orthodox way and score runs.
“He’s the vice-captain of the side and that responsibility has made him play with a bit more caution. His shot selection was spot-on.”