Jennings
Keaton Jennings had a dream start to his Test career AFP

No Ajinkya Rahane, no Mohammed Shami. That did not worry India, for they are 2-0 up in a home series, going into the fourth of the five-Test series. They gave another nod to Karun Nair and drafted in Bhuvneshwar Kumar to fill Shami’s shoes. However, England chose to bat in front of the roaring Wankhede Stadium. They replaced out-of-sorts Gareth Batty with pacer Jake Ball, and gave cap to Keaton Jennings to replace the injured Haseeb Hameed. The platform was set for Alastair Cook and his new opening partner to exploit the conditions, as the Mumbai track has the reputation of producing even bounce.

Bhuvneshwar started off the proceedings with a 2-run over to Cook. After bowling a middle-and-off line, he came round the wicket for the last 2 balls, looking to find Cook’s outside edge. From the other end ran in Umesh Yadav, to Jennings. The newcomer left his first ball of Test cricket alone. Nonetheless, he did show nerves as he thick-edged one to Nair at gully. As fate would have it, the ball raced hard to Nair’s left, making it difficult for him to pouch it (had Steven Smith taken it?). That eventually woke him up, as he got off the mark with a cut-shot, playing with precision and conviction. He then followed it up with pull-shot in front of square.

Full Cricket Scorecard: India vs England 4th Test at Mumbai

Jennings, however, was in the thick of things. Bhuvneshwar trapped him lbw. Umpire turned down the loud appeal. Virat Kohli, after taking the bowler’s and Ravichandran Ashwin s suggestion, called for a review. It looked plumb to the naked eye. But it was marginal, so much so that the ball stuck just 50 per cent outside off and the umpire’s call came into play, resulting in not out.

Much to our surprise, Kohli introduced Ravichandran Ashwin in the 8th over (surprise because, unlike MS Dhoni, Kohli prefers pacers making full use of the new ball). It wasn’t a bad tactic though. Given the nature of the track, taking pace off the ball might as well have disturbed the openers’ rhythm.

Meanwhile, Hameed was spotted watching the match with his family, amidst the spectators. A simple white shirt with blacks trousers made him look like a school kid. He is just 19, in fact. However, it was nice to see the youngster making good use of the free time: not only watching cricket but taking selfies with Indian cricket-lovers in the stands.

England openers continued pursuing the age-old tactic. They played with caution, hit only if there was something on offer, and put a price on their wicket.

Ashwin usually loves hunting down the southpaws from round the wicket. He tried and tested what he usually does, but could not disrupt England’s zen-like focus. But he is not the one to accept what comes his way. He came over the wicket and eventually bowled an absolute peach of a delivery.

Ashwin looped one outside leg, forcing Cook to open up his stance. The ball zipped off the surface, beat Cook’s outside edge and missed the off-stump by a whisker. For that matter, even Parthiv Patel failed to grab it cleanly.

Again, much to our surprise, Kohli did not bring Jadeja into the attack until the 26th over. He rather attacked with off-spinners (Jayant Yadav along with Ashwin) from both the ends. Jayant, for the matter, bowled that one jaffa but could not provide the breakthrough.

Meanwhile, Jennings scored a half-century on his debut. As a matter of fact, judging by the way he applied himself this morning, he might as well reach the three-figure mark.

In came Jadeja and in came a wicket; Cook’s wicket right away. What surprised was that Cook was stumped a rare scene in Test cricket. Credit goes to Jadeja as well. He was quick enough to read Cook’s intention and reduced the length. And as Cook tried to close the face of the bat to heave it over mid-wicket, it spun sharply in and beat his inside edge, resulting in a stumping.

After 31 overs, England are 117 for 1 at lunch.

Brief scores:

England 117 for 1 (Alastair Cook 46, Keaton Jennings 65*; Ravindra Jadeja 1 for 6) vs India

(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @kaumedy_)