Ravindra Jadeja
Ravindra Jadeja (AFP Photo)

In Alastair Cook’s farewell Test, England looked determined to overcome their batting struggles, courtesy the man himself. In a slow but solid start, Cook and opening partner Keaton Jennings put on their team’s second fifty plus stand of the series as Indian bowlers were made to work for their wickets in the first session of the fifth Test at the Kennington Oval on Friday.

With the score reaching 60/0, England thus registered their best opening stand of the series and despite the pacers asking repeated questions of their batsmen, they kept going on. The breakthrough came soon and it was allrounder Ravindra Jadeja who landed the first blow.

Playing in his first match of the ongoing five-Test series, Jadeja didn’t get the track he is used to getting at home on which he has bamboozled many a batsmen. He, though, kept his cool and complemented the pressure being built on by his pacers. The reward came soon. He got rid of Jennings on 23 to give India their first success of the day.

“Our plan was to not concede boundaries when Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali were playing,” Jadeja said during the press briefing after a dramatic turnaround in the final session saw England lose six wickets for 48 runs. “If we cut down on them [boundaries], they might end up playing false shots in panic. And that’s what happened. We got one wicket and then for 50-odd runs, we picked up six wickets. As a bowling unit, our aim was to not give runs. If there’s a partnership going on, we will bowl in the right areas. Wickets fall in heap in England.”

The first two sessions, despite England scoring at a slow pace, went in their favour as they lost just one wicket. In fact, India went wicketless during the second session as Cook built up a 73-run stand with No. 3 Moeen Ali. Both went on to score their half-centuries. However, Cook was bowled on 71 by Jasprit Bumrah which then triggered a dramatic collapse in the third session. Soon, England had been reduced to 134/4.

“It’s difficult when you don’t get any help from the wicket on Day 1. You are unable to execute your plans. [Mohammed] Shami, Ishant [Sharma] and Bumrah were bowling well from the other end. My aim was to also not give boundaries. If you release pressure from one end, it becomes easy for the batsmen. In the first session we went wicketless but we didn’t concede runs either. Overall, as a bowling department everybody did their job,” Jadeja said.

Ben Stokes joined Moeen Ali to thwart charging Indian bowlers after they had removed three England batsmen for just one run. The duo had added 37 runs between them when Jadeja broke the stand by trapping Stokes lbw on 11.

“For Ben Stokes, we kept the square leg a bit close, deep midwicket was wide. Wicket wasn’t offering turn. We knew he will sweep at some point. I spotted him early on and then I bowled one full. Luckily he was unable to decide what shot to play,” Jadeja explained his dismissal of Stokes.

The two bowlers to not pick up any wickets on the day were debutant Hanuma Vihari, bowled just one over and Mohammed Shami who bowled his heart out for 22 overs and frustratingly beat the edge on countless occasions.

“Shami bowled well. He was a bit unlucky that he kept on beating the edges. Still there are three wickets left in this innings. He looks in good rhythm and generating good pace, so he hopefully will get wickets in the next innings. Bumrah and Ishant also bowled really well. As a bowling unit, we did really well,” Jadeja was full of praise for India’s pace trio.

Talking about the Oval track Jadeja expects it to slow down further in the coming days. “Wicket is good for batting. Not much there. It will get slower as the game progresses. Looks a bit dry, so good for batting. But our three pacers bowled well on it,” he said.