Indian Pace attack as brutally menacing as West-Indies of Seventies?

Match 4 Day 1 review

Indian Pacers ran through England again and looked dangerous till Curran offensive took England to pass a decent total of about 250. Are they as lethal as West Indian attack of Roberts, Garner, Holding, Marshall, Walsh, Ambrose and Company? Wait and watch….

It was almost a month ago when the series had started, which has now reached an exhilarating stage. First, the hosts delivered the knockout punch to take a 2-0 lead. Then the tourists fought back to make it 2-1 in magnificent fashion. Can now the visitors make it 2-2? Or will the hosts make a comeback to seal the series? Amidst all the excitement, the teams arrived at Southampton for the Fourth Test of the series.

Lovely weather and a proper test pitch with even grass covering meant that the team winning the toss would look to bat and just negotiate the first hour or so. England once again won the toss and elected to bat first. The hosts had to make a couple of forced changes due to injuries with Moeen Ali and Sam Curran coming into the side. India, on the other hand, went in with an unchanged eleven after a very long time.

The match was underway under bright sunshine and Bumrah provided India with a perfect start. In the third over itself, he bowled a magnificent in-swinger to the left-handed Jennings to trap him right in front. Bumrah generally takes the ball away from the left-handers which prompted Jennings to leave the ball alone. However, the ball came back in sharply and Jennings was caught right in front. It certainly was a delightful start. Ishant Sharma then got the Captain Joe Root LBW with another big in-swinger. Jonny Bairstow edged one to the keeper off Bumrah to leave England reeling at 28/3. Alastair Cook at the other end was providing the much-needed resistance for England. However, he too didn’t last long as he was dismissed by Hardik Pandya while trying to dab/cut a delivery which took the edge of his bat to the third slip. This was a dream start for India as England were rocked back early at 36/4.

Jos Buttler joined Ben Stokes in the middle and started playing some aggressive strokes. They batted together till lunch to take hosts to 57/4. However, Buttler was soon dismissed by Mohammed Shami as he tried to reach out for a wide delivery only to edge it to the slips. Shami then ended the resistance of Ben Stokes as he foxed with a superb incoming delivery which struck the pads in front.

England was tottering at 86/5 and needed some inspiration to get out of the situation. A young Sam Curran joined Moeen Ali in the middle to begin the resurrection of the English innings. Both of them put together a partnership of 81 runs to give England a glimmer of hope. In tough circumstances both the batsmen counter-attacked the Indian bowlers to put them under pressure. However, after contributing a gritty 40 Moeen Ali was dismissed by R. Ashwin as he was lured in to play another big shot. Bumrah took a fine sliding catch to end the entertaining innings. Adil Rashid soon fell to Ishant Sharma as he was trapped LBW to a classic swinger.

The hosts were precariously placed at 175/8 as Stuart Broad joined Sam Curran. Young Curran was batting beautifully as he played some fabulous strokes with great confidence. He brought up his second test fifty with a six over cow corner off Ashwin. He put up a crucial 63 run stand with Broad to take England to a respectable score. His vigil finally came to an end as he tried to swipe one across the line to a Ravi Ashwin delivery which crashed into his stumps. Curran departed for a well played 76 and the hosts were bowled out for 246. At stumps, India were 19 for no loss.

It looked a good batting deck initially but the Indian bowlers bowled beautifully with the new ball. Bumrah and Ishant were exceptional with the new ball while Shami and Ashwin provided good support. Everyone chipped in with wickets as the hosts were bowled out inside 80 overs. However, a fantastic knock from Sam Curran ensured a fighting total for England. His partnerships with MoeenAli and Stuart Broad were the highlights of the English batting. Without his contribution, England would have been in complete disarray. Things don’t look too bright for the hosts but they certainly have found a star for the future. India on the other hand, will look to make use of good batting conditions on day 2 to go past England’s total. Sam Curran did his magic with the bat. Can he do some with the ball in hand? We will find out as we await another riveting day at Southampton.

Prasad Palkar

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