India vs. England, 4th Test, Day 1

If you’d had offered most England fans the opportunity to win the toss on a turning pitch in Mumbai and then finish 288-5 before play, then I’m sure most of us would have snatched your hand off; however the prevailing feeling amongst most fans is one of mild disappointment and thinking about what might have been today. England whilst not in cruise control at 220-2 were certainly laying down a good platform for what could have been a match winning innings, but one daft shot and one decent delivery in an Ashwin over changed the course of the innings on a pitch where it seems increasingly difficult to start on. The old adage that one brings two was perfectly highlighted in that last session and means England, from being firmly in the box seat, are now only slight favourites to win this Test.

As for the batsmen, Keaton Jennings had a day that he is unlikely to forget, scoring a magnificent hundred in his debut innings. Things could have been very different had he not been dropped on 0; however you have to make the most of any good fortune you get at international level and he looked far and away the best of the English batsmen. As I mentioned in yesterday’s preview, I haven’t seen much of Jennings during the last season and from memory he used to be a bit of a stodgy batsman by all accounts; however there was no hint of stodginess during this innings with the ability to play shots on both sides of the wicket and a highly effective traditional and reverse sweep able to keep the scoreboard ticking. He may well have had a few nerves coming into the game but you can certainly tell that he is in prime knick and high in confidence. The fact that he reached his hundred with a reverse sweep for four only highlights where he is with his game at the moment and the selectors should be praised for bringing him to open at the top of the order. I’m not going to go overboard with the praise after one great innings (I’ll leave that to the hacks who are always happy to build someone up and then knock them down); however if he continues to perform well over the next 3 innings then England are going to have some searching questions at the top of the order with Hameed returning from injury, come the first Test against South Africa. My guess is that one of Hameed or Jennings may well end up batting at number 3 but it certainly heaps a bit of pressure on Cook to start scoring some consistent runs.

As for Cook himself, he looked in better knick than he has done in the past few innings with both him and Jennings both scoring at 3.5 runs per over in the first session to lay an impressive platform for the innings. The thing with Cook in this series compared to 2014 is that his technique hasn’t looked all over the shop as it did in 2014. Yes his technique is fairly ugly with a number of moving parts and it of course only takes one of these to become out of sync to affect his balance but I haven’t seen too much wrong with his trigger movement in this series, it’s just that he keeps missing straight balls that haven’t turned or played down the wrong line to the fast bowlers. Perhaps it’s more mental than physical with the effects of the captaincy debate and being away from his newborn playing on his mind, certainly the ugly heave that got him out stumped seemed to suggest a slightly frazzled mind. Moeen played as Moeen does, playing and missing at a number of deliveries, playing the odd shot of beauty and then playing an ungainly heave across the line to get out after scoring a half century. This is Moeen in a nutshell I’m afraid, there will always be some breathtaking shots and there will always be some fairly loose dismissals as part of his modus operandi, as a bowler and a captain, he is someone who always keeps you interested in the field as a dismissal could always be around the corner. The fact that Moeen copped a load of flack for his dismissal (especially from Boycott) whilst the captain hardly got a mention for his equally ugly dismissal, speaks loads about our commentator’s and media’s mindset. Cook the captain might be fair game to have a gentle pop at but don’t ever have a pop at Cook the batsman. Ca plus change. As for the rest of the batsmen, Bairstow got out to an over ambitious sweep shot and Stokes and Buttler with some skill and a large amount of luck got us to the close without any other damage being down on a wicket where the ball is already starting to turn square.

With regards to the wicket, it was obviously vital to win the toss first and have first go on this surface; however I think the fact that the ball is going through the surface on Day 1 has really surprised the English team. I did mention last night that England may have to counter their initial thoughts about playing 4 seamers if the pitch looked like it was going to turn; however they still stuck with their initial plan of picking 4 quicks. Now whether this is simply a misreading of the pitch or a stubborn insistence that they go with their original plan, I’m simply not sure about; however I believe they have put themselves at a disadvantage bowling at India as the match goes on. You would think that Moeen, Rashid and probably Joe Root are now going to have to get through a lot of overs when India get their turn to bat.

So where does this leave us after Day 1, well the game is certainly delicately poised and England will know that they will need to bat well in the first session tomorrow to win this game. England as a minimum need to score 350+ and will probably be aiming at 400, but with Ashwin and Jadeja bowling superbly added to the fact that the pitch will continue to turn square throughout the game, this will be no easy task. England had a good day today but they will also need to have a good day with the bat tomorrow to have a chance, as put it this way, I certainly wouldn’t fancy England’s chances if they end up with a first innings deficit.

On a final note, it was again heartening to see the full allocation of overs being used with an added bonus of 4 extra overs for those watching the game. It really shouldn’t be that difficult for a Test team to bowl 90 overs in a day and it is something I believe that the ICC should be clamping down on more.

Thoughts and comments on Day 2 below: