Jury still out on 'Bazball' as India put England under pressure in first Test

Hosts trail by 127 with nine wickets in hand after visitors are bowled out for 246 in Hyderabad

England's captain Ben Stokes is bowled by India's Jasprit Bumrah during the first day of the first Test in Hyderabad on Thursday, January 25, 2024. AP
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The five-Test series in India was going to be the biggest test of England's cavalier approach to batting in red-ball cricket. Unfortunately for them, the opening day of the Hyderabad Test on Thursday was not great advertisement for "Bazball".

After a manic day with numerous plays and misses and sharp turn for spinners, India took control of the match, and also exposed some major flaws in England's batting approach.

The visitors decided to bat first and openers Ben Duckett and Zak Crawley went after India's new ball bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Siraj, humming along at five an over. But both seamers beat the bat of the openers more often than not.

India introduced the spin inside 10 overs. Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin were going to pose a whole new level of threat because when they beat the bat, they generally strike.

Ashwin did so early, trapping Duckett lbw. Ollie Pope fended at Jadeja to be caught at slip and Crawley spooned a drive to mid off. At 60-3, the momentum had shifted.

Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, with superior techniques than other England players, countered with even more attacking cricket. They quickly put together 61 runs before Bairstow (37 off 58 balls) was bowled neck and crop while defending to the third of India's spin trio – Axar Patel.

Root is the most accomplished batsman in the England team, but also guilty of playing the riskiest shots. One such sweep off Jadeja was easily pouched at short fine leg for 29 as England lost half their side for 125.

From there, the visitors could have easily been bowled out for 150. But the architect of England's new approach to Test cricket was still batting. Stokes only needed one batsman to stay at the other end so that he could open his shoulders and swing through the line.

He found unlikely support from debutant spinner Tom Hartley, who came in at 155-7. A few good connections against the spinners from him is all that was needed to fire up Stokes, who blasted 70 from just 88 balls, while taking particular liking to Jadeja (3-88).

Hartley's 23 from 24 balls was invaluable, as it helped England post 246, which seems neither here nor there. But it was at least something to bowl at.

Stokes was the last man out, missing an off-cutter from Bumrah to lose his stumps, having smashed six fours and three sixes.

Ashwin finished with 3-68 to inch close to the 500-wicket mark.

There was some anguish at the fall of Stokes' wicket. Maybe the captain was wondering if he could have at least come close to the ball. Or maybe whether England's top-order batsmen could have shown just a little more application on what is sure to be a square turner over the coming days.

When it was India's turn to bat, they showed how to impose themselves on the bowlers. Yashasvi Jaiswal hit the first ball of spinner Hartley over midwicket for a six, and, in the company of captain Rohit Sharma, scored at nearly seven an over in the first 10 overs.

Even after Sharma was dismissed by Jack Leach for 24, Jaiswal did not slow down.

He went to stumps on 76 from 70 balls, with nine fours and three sixes. India ended the day on 119-1 from just 23 overs – a vastly superior run rate than England's 3.8 and that, too, after playing far fewer risky strokes.

Test cricket is possibly a bit more straightforward than England are making it. But at least the opening day was great entertainment for the sizeable crowd at Uppal.

The Indians trail the tourists by 127 runs with nine wickets in hand. If England don't gather themselves quickly, the Test could well be gone by stumps tomorrow.

Updated: January 25, 2024, 12:40 PM