England ground their way to 199 for five on a slow first day of the fourth and final Test against India in Nagpur after debutants for both sides impressed.
Ravindra Jadeja removed England's top scorers Jonathan Trott (44) and Kevin Pietersen (73) to return two for 34 before Joe Root closed unbeaten on 31.
Ishant Sharma's double strike saw off Alastair Cook and Nick Compton before Trott and Pietersen put on 86 for the third wicket. After their dismissal, and that of Ian Bell for one, Root and Matthew Prior, who made 31 not out, saw England to stumps by playing barely a shot in anger on a slow, cracked pitch.
Sharma ended with two for 32 and recalled Piyush Chawla taking the other wicket. England's other change was to bring back Tim Bresnan in place of the injured Steven Finn as Samit Patel made way for Root.
bet365 now make India 11/10 to win the game, with England at 21/10 and the draw 11/4.
Cook won the toss for the first time in the series and had no doubts about batting first. England made two changes to the side that won in Kolkata. Root made his Test debut, coming in for Samit Patel, and Tim Bresnan was the other change as Steven Finn was ruled out due to injury.
India made two changes as well, bringing in Ravindra Jadeja (also making his Test debut) for Yuvraj Singh and Piyush Chawla for Zaheer Khan. It meant that they went in with a three-spinner attack, effectively four with Jadeja in the eleven, and with Ishant Sharma the lone pacer.
Thanks to the slowness of the pitch, run-making proved to be difficult, but even more prominent was the variable bounce, evident from the very first over of the day when Ishant started troubling the English openers. The runs weren’t flowing from the very beginning and India struck first blood in the fifth over when one rose sharply for Nick Compton (3) to edge it behind to Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Jonathan Trott survived a close leg before shout early on, but Cook (1) couldn’t as his luck finally gave out. He was given out trapped in front by Kumar Dharamasena off a delivery that seemed to be angling across and leaving the off stump.
With Cook gone cheaply, the big challenge ahead of England was to string partnerships together and score runs. Trott and Pietersen didn’t let go of the opportunity and added 86 runs for the third wicket. They had gone to lunch with the score on 61 for two, with the run-rate hovering around a paltry two runs an over.
Post-lunch, it improved slightly and only because of Pietersen who wasn’t afraid to use his feet and play shots in the air against the four spinners.
Trott was watchful, a tad too much perhaps as he watched Jadeja’s arm-ball shatter his off stump. He was bowled for 44 off 133 balls, with seven fours, having done all the hard work.
India got a double breakthrough when Ian Bell’s (1) woeful tour continued, as he lobbed an easy catch to Virat Kohli off Piyush Chawla. England took tea at 133 for four, a day that had so far gone India’s way, but for Pietersen’s resistance.
It was finally broken, almost immediately after play resumed, when he played his first poor shot of the day. Pragyan Ojha completed a low catch off Jadeja, Pietersen returning back to the pavilion for 73 runs off 188 balls. He hit ten fours. Then something strange happened, as Matt Prior joined Joe Root at the crease.
India had been well ahead of their over-rate, bowled the last 90 minutes quite listlessly, almost going through the motions. The fact that the ball was now quite old and they had only one seamer in Ishant, who doesn’t really excel in the art of reverse swing was a factor.
Even so, the body language of the hosts suggested that they had packed up for the day as Root and Prior added 60 runs for the sixth wicket without even breaking a sweat.
At stumps, Root was batting on 31 off 110 balls, while Prior was unbeaten on 34 off 83 balls. For India, Ishant was the main bowler, taking two for 32. Jadeja had a successful first outing in Test cricket with two for 34 and Chawla returned one for 39. Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin, used sparingly, went wicketless on an unhelpful pitch.
Ravindra Jadeja on his Test debut: "I received my ODI cap from Sachin Tendulkar and received my Test cap from him as well. It hasn’t yet sunk in that I am playing Test cricket for India, but this past week has been quite good for me.
"Of course there is a huge difference between domestic cricket and international cricket, especially in Tests. The batsmen are so much better, so you cannot give away free runs and that’s what I tried to do on this unresponsive pitch, tried to bowl stump-to-stump."
Kevin Pietersen on the pitch and England’s day one score: "It is one of the toughest pitches I have played Test cricket on. There is little bounce and the ball is very slow coming onto the bat, and it will only get worse I think. Even so, I have no idea how this pitch will play out in two or three days’ time.
"I had some difficulty facing Ishant on this pitch so maybe we have an advantage that we are playing two seamers. I think we should be happy with 199/5. It is not the best pitch from an entertainment point of view but if India think they can win and level the series with this pitch, you cannot do much as a touring side. For us, it is a massive challenge to win the series on this pitch over the next four days."
© Cricket World 2012
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