Birmingham: Rishabh Pant gave Ben Stokes’ England a taste of their own medicine with a superb counter-attacking century as India recovered from a top-order collapse on Friday’s opening day of the delayed fifth Test at Edgbaston.
Recalled England great James Anderson and fledgling quick Matthew Potts shared five wickets between them to reduce India to 98-5 after Stokes won the toss under overcast skies in Birmingham.
But Pant responded with a brilliant 146 and together with fellow left-hander Ravindra Jadeja, 83 not out, shared a sixth-wicket partnership of 222 that helped India to 338-7 at stumps.
England came into this match on the back of a 3-0 series win over Test world champions New Zealand notable for the aggressive, fearless approach they demonstrated under their new leadership duo of captain Stokes and red-ball coach Brendon McCullum.
Pant, however, has been playing ‘Baz ball’, as England’s new style has been dubbed in honour of the McCullum’s nickname, pretty much his entire career.
He was especially severe on Jack Leach on Friday, swinging himself off his feet while slogging a four and later driving the left-arm spinner one-handed for six in an over costing 22 runs.
Leach, fresh from a 10-wicket haul in the third Test against New Zealand, conceded an expensive 71 runs in nine wicketless overs.
Pant’s century came from just 89 balls, including 15 fours and a six.
Part-time off-spinner Joe Root succeeded where the frontline bowlers had failed when Pant edged a drive to Zak Crawley, who held his third slip catch of the day.
It was the end of a double century stand that lasted a mere 39 overs, with the second highest score of Pant’s Test career his fifth hundred in 31 matches and third against England.
Potts, who only made his international debut against New Zealand, had earlier added to his growing reputation by removing Virat Kohli for 11.
The 23-year-old had dismissed Black Caps skipper Kane Williamson three times in four innings and on Friday, following a 90-minute rain delay, the paceman took two wickets for five runs in seven balls to reduce India to 71-4.
Potts had Hanuma Vihari plumb lbw for 20 before he induced Kohli to play on, with the star batsman having now gone nearly three years since making the last of his 27 Test hundreds.
Friday’s match should have been played in Manchester last September only to be postponed just hours before the scheduled start because of coronavirus concerns within the India camp.
India, 2-1 up in the five-match contest, were without captain Rohit Sharma on Friday after he was ruled out with Covid-19. Fellow opener KL Rahul, who with Rohit scored heavily in England last year, had already been sidelined with a groin problem.
Both teams have experienced major upheaval since they last met, with Chris Silverwood and Root replaced as England’s coach and Test captain respectively.
Kohli stepped down as India captain in February, with paceman Jasprit Bumrah leading the side for the first time at Edgbaston, while Rahul Dravid succeeded the retiring Ravi Shastri as coach in November.
By playing the game, albeit almost a year later in what has become the longest-running series in Test history, India are helping to fill an estimated #40 million ($48 million) hole in English cricket’s finances.
India (1st innings)
S. Gill c Crawley b Anderson 17
C. Pujara c Crawley b Anderson 13
H. Vihari lbw Potts 20
V. Kohli b Potts 11
R. Pant c Crawley b Root 146
S. Iyer c Billings b Anderson 15
R. Jadeja Not Out 83
S. Thakur c Billings b Stokes 1
M. Shami Not Out 0
Extras (4b 16lb 12nb 0pen 0w) 32
Total (73.0 overs) 338-7
Fall of Wickets : 1-27 Gill, 2-46 Pujara, 3-64 Vihari, 4-71 Kohli, 5-98 Iyer, 6-320 Pant, 7-323 Thakur To Bat : Bumrah, Siraj
Bowling: Anderson 19 4 52 3; Broad 15 2 53 0; Potts 17 1 85 2; Leach 9 0 71 0; Stokes 10 0 34 1; Root 3 0 23 1.