With the series scoreline reading 1-3 and England's top-order beginning to find its rhythm at last, India's seam unit of yesteryears might have fallen away. However, in such a grim situation during the opening day's play in the fifth Test at The Oval, their current pace attack reiterated its durability by putting in yet another wholehearted performance.
On what appears to be the best batting surface in the series thus far, Indian skipper Virat Kohli lost his fifth toss in a row. Unsurprisingly, the hosts grabbed at the opportunity to pile on the runs and consequently exert dominance.
After going into lunch at 68/1, the England batsmen were subjected to sustained discipline from the Indian bowlers. The second session saw both Alastair Cook and Moeen Ali being reprieved as the visitors' familiar problem in slip-catching reared its ugly head once again.
Despite the dropped chances, the trio of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami maintained pressure by hitting the right lengths tirelessly. Meanwhile, the strangling left-arm spin of Ravindra Jadeja allowed Kohli to use his three fast bowlers in a judicious manner. The entire post-lunch session saw England add just 55 runs from 31 overs.
Aside from a rare loose ball to Moeen, the Indian seamers built on their resoluteness in the initial phase of the third session. The pressure was beginning to take its toll on the batsmen. While the scorecard read 133/1 at the end of the 63rd over, neither Cook nor Ali appeared to be in firm control.
Pacers' will pulls India into action
Bumrah turned the game on its head by removing the obdurate Cook as well as talisman Joe Root in the space of four deliveries. The partisan crowd at The Oval groaned in dismay as the retiring left-hander inside-edged a length delivery onto his stumps. Although he still has one more opportunity in the second innings, the veteran's dismissal on 71 spawned an anticlimactic end.
In the same over, Bumrah proceeded to dismiss Root with a beautiful delivery. Moving the ball prodigiously from his hand, the 24-year old got one to swing sharply into the Yorkshireman. The England captain was struck in front after attempting to shuffle across the stumps in a bid to tackle such a line.
Ishant Sharma consolidated India's fightback by getting rid of Jonny Bairstow. Before getting off the mark, the woefully out of form right-hander poked at a delivery which just held its line at the last instant.
Ben Stokes joined Moeen in the middle and a brief partnership ensued. The two flamboyant southpaws were not allowed to get away as the Indian bowlers scarcely veered away from their plans. The objective was simple - amass pressure on the two stroke-players and see who blinks first.
Jadeja was settling into the groove as well. Preparing to unleash the sweep shot, Stokes misread the trajectory and the left-arm spinner's archetypal length. The fuller and quicker delivery trapped him in front. On a surface not offering substantial turn, the 29-year old had contributed two useful wickets aside from keeping a lid on the run-rate.
Towards the end of the day, Ishant reaped rewards for his tenacious toil in the first two sessions. He kept probing the corridor of uncertainty and ended up obtaining the outside-edges of Moeen as well as key man Sam Curran.
In what was a remarkable day of attrition, India relied on their seamers to bring them back into the contest. From a position of authority, England lost six wickets in the final session and finished the opening day at a precarious 198/7.