Having suffered a tumultuous 203-run defeat at Trent Bridge, England got themselves off to an adequate start by winning a crucial toss in the fourth Test at Southampton. Although a discernible grass cover greeted both teams, the hard nature of the surface at the Ageas Bowl meant that batting last could become a massive disadvantage.
While the hosts brought in Moeen Ali and Sam Curran to replace Ollie Pope and Chris Woakes respectively, the visitors bucked the recent trend by going in with an unchanged playing eleven.
Unlike in the previous Test where Mohammed Shami opened the proceedings in the first innings, Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma took the new ball this time around. After losing the toss, India needed early wickets to apply pressure on the England top-order.
Bumrah's double blow dents England
Bumrah started the Test match with a beautiful delivery. Hitting excess of 140 kph, he beat Alastair Cook's outside edge by moving the ball across from the perfect length. The remaining five deliveries were probing ones too. At the other end, Ishant also had the seasoned left-hander in all sorts of trouble.
The first ball of the third over produced the breakthrough that India were targeting. Having seen Bumrah slant the ball across him, Keaton Jennings suffered a catastrophic lapse in judgment. The vicious delivery pitched in line and straightened sharply at the last instant.
Offering no stroke, Jennings got himself into an inextricable tangle and could not prevent the ball from thudding on to the pad. Realising that he was trapped plumb in front, the opener did not even wait for the umpire's decision as he started walking back to the dressing room.
While Bumrah challenged Joe Root's temperament, Ishant continued to pose serious questions to Cook. The 24-year old got one to jag back in and cannon on to the England skipper's static legs. With the umpire unmoved, India employed the services of the Decision Review System.
What followed was an all too familiar tale as Bumrah was found to have overstepped. To rub salt into his wounds, the replay further showed the ball crashing onto leg-stump. However, the no-ball did not cost India anything significant as Root succumbed soon to a splendid in-swinger from Ishant.
Both bowlers sustained the pressure by keeping a lid on the scoring-rate. Seldom did they send down loose balls. Skipper Virat Kohli's decision to provide lengthy first spells to his new-ball operators did the trick as Bumrah removed the newly promoted Jonny Bairstow.
Eerily similar to the manner in which he had outsmarted the Yorkshireman at Trent Bridge, Bumrah got one to straighten off the pitch at searing pace. In trying to protect his stumps, Bairstow could not avoid the ball kissing his outside edge which carried smoothly to Rishabh Pant.
With Hardik Pandya subsequently dismissing Cook, England went to lunch at 57/4. Although Sam Curran's lower-order rearguard eventually swelled the total to 246, the opening day's play belonged to Bumrah. The wily seamer broke through the hosts' top-order on what appears to be a batting-friendly pitch.