India v England, 5th Test: India seamers dominate despite Cook, Ali fifties
Ishant Sharma picked up 3/28. (Getty Images)

Ever since Alastair Cook walked out to bat in his final match for England, he seemed focussed. The drives were finding the middle of his bat than its edges, and the flicks finding the boundary ropes. By the end of the second session, England were 123/1, the former England captain 34 shy of becoming just the fifth batsman in history to achieve the rare distinction of scoring a century in his first and final Test. Such was his determination that Cook looked well on course to getting there.

But as the Oval waited in anticipation for Cook to score those valuable runs, Jasprit Bumrah, who had bowled his heart out until then, silenced the 25000 faithful by denying Cook his fairy-tale finish: a fair delivery that the left-hander played on for 71. His dismissal triggered a huge collapse for England, who went on to lose six wickets for 48 runs and were left hurting at 198/7 at stumps on Day 1 of the fifth Test at the Oval.

The Indian pacers hit back just when England seemed to be running away with advantage. Once Cook departed, Bumrah produced an inswinger that had Joe Root playing across the line and miss. Rapped on the pads and given out for a duck, the review not saving him. An over later, Ishant Sharma dealt Jonny Bairstow his second duck of the series. The Indian pace attack that looked flattened, had come alive.

Moeen Ali, who batted dourly for a 170-ball 50, attempted at putting the England innings back on track with a 38-run stand between him and Ben Stokes before the effort was snapped by Ravindra Jadeja. Stokes went back and almost yorked himself for the wicket.

England’s hopes were pinned on Ali and Jos Buttler, their leading run-getter of the series. But Ishant had other plans. In two overs, he removed Ali and Sam Curran, both edging to wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant to leave England reeling. India had the option of taking the second new ball but opted against it, a decision Ishant ensured they didn’t regret. The fast bowler produced splendid figures of 3/28.

Buttler, England’s last recognised batsman escaped with a couple of close reprieves. He was given not out off a caught behind appeal, the replay suggesting there was daylight between bat and ball. Two overs later, Mohammad Shami had him out LBW. Buttler however, opted for a review, looking rather doubtful, and had the decision reversed in his favour because of an inside edge detected on the snickometer.

In a stark contrast, Cook and Ali had played out a wicketless second session for England. They were laborious in scoring runs post lunch. It took five overs before Ali struck a boundary off Bumrah for the first scoring shot of the second session.

India grassed chances of Cook and Ali in a span of four deliveries early into the second session. Ishant, who has constantly troubled Cook in the series, pitched it full and induced a drive. It led to a healthy edge only to be spilled by Ajinkya Rahane at a close gully position. Two balls later, Bumrah came round the wicket and sucked Ali into a drive. A tough chance, but skipper Virat Kohli shelled it at third slip going one-handed. The early reprieves set the platform for England, and Cook and Ali cashed in.

Besides the dropped chances, India lost their first review when Ali shouldered arms, but the ball seemed to be heading over. Jadeja dropped a couple of half-trackers and Cook was quick to play the cut shot, while Ali drove with precision.

A determined Cook walked out to a guard of honour by the Indian team after his captain Root, for the fifth straight time, nailed the coin toss. The former England captain, unfazed by the slowness and dryness of the surface, started off in a manner that he has for the last 12 years, watchfully. With each passing over though, England realised how wonderful the conditions were for batting. Cook got into action with a typical flick off the pads for four, and as Bumrah operated round the wicket, the left-hander struck a fierce cut shot followed by a full-throttle pull. A drive down the ground brought up Cook’s 57th half-century and the entire Oval to its feet.

The beginning wasn’t as easy. While a few balls nearly took Cook’s outside edge, Keaton Jennings was pinned on the helmet early by Ishant. He was squared up frequently by Bumrah on several occasions but seemed fiercely dedicated to not give away his wicket. The challenging time Jennings endured can be gauged by the fact that he needed 43 deliveries for his first boundary.

Bumrah and Ishant combined to bowl 13 overs up front. But with no assistance from the pitch, Kohli threw the ball to Jadeja, playing his first Test of the series. A cautious Jennings reverse swept the left-armer to shake off the cobwebs. But with the ball beginning to grip, he offered a faint tickle to KL Rahul at leg slip for Jadeja’s first wicket. It was Rahul’s 12th catch of the series.

Brief score: England 198/7 (Alastair Cook 71, Moeen Ali 50; Ishant Sharma 3/28) at stumps on Day 1.