Prior to the start of the series, all eyes were focused on the battle between the Indian batsmen and England's experienced new ball pairing. The visitors understandably tackled James Anderson and Stuart Broad with palpable caution. But the left-arm swing of the unheralded Sam Curran turned out to be their nemesis in the opening session of day two at Edgbaston.
Curran, who had debuted against Pakistan at Leeds in June, demolished India's top-order in a whirlwind spell. After trapping Murali Vijay, he proceeded to trump KL Rahul and outclass Shikhar Dhawan in an engrossing passage of play in Birmingham.
Having bowled out England for a manageable score of 287, India's openers looked to drive home the advantage. While Vijay was his usual attentive self, Dhawan preyed on the loose deliveries like a hungry vulture encircling rare prey.
The duo brought up India's first fifty-run partnership on English soil since the 2011 Lord's Test. With the scorecard reading 50/0, the hosts found themselves under pressure. But the 14th over of the innings turned the match on its head.
Curran scythes through India's top-order
Curran got into Vijay's mind by angling the ball back into him. Even though the pace was decidedly modest, the engulfing cloud cover was aiding a hint of swing. The elegant right-hander's confused footwork gave an indication of his cluttered thought process. Aside from a juicy full toss which was dispatched to the cover boundary, the seamer did not give an inch.
Curran got his reward when he swung the ball prodigiously and caught Vijay unawares from over the stump. The ball evaded the attempted the flick before thudding onto the pad. Aleem Dar remained uninterested despite a vociferous appeal. Upon inspection through DRS, the decision was reversed in England's favour.
The team management's first bold call in the series was sent into immense scrutiny. Occupying the pivotal number three spot in place of Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul neither showed any aptitude for the situation nor any respect for the demands of Test cricket.
After edging a streaky boundary through the lurking slip cordon, Rahul decided to have an ugly waft at a fuller delivery. He plonked his front foot and tried to play through the line. But he only ended up inside edging the ball onto his stumps.
With India losing two quick wickets, the need of the hour was for Dhawan to prevent further casualty before the looming lunch interval. However, the left-hander's urge got the better of him. He was left befuddled by Curran's curve. The ball somehow managed to escape the prowling slip cordon.
Upon seeing the next ball beat his bat, the flat-footed Dhawan once again attempted to drive on the up. The sharp out-swing as well as the left-hander's angled bat meant that only one result was possible. Dawid Malan gleefully accepted the outside edge at second slip.
In the space of 14 frenetic deliveries, India had slumped from a comfortable position to a precarious one. From 59/3, their fate yet again rested on the shoulders of their skipper even as the surface began to quicken up. Meanwhile, Curran had offered an early glimpse that there was indeed life after Anderson and Broad.