England were on the brink of a first-innings—and potentially match-winning—advantage after dominating the first day of the fourth Test against India at Old Trafford.
The tourists elected to bowl first after a brief rain delay and, after collapsing to 8-4 in an extraordinary morning session, only recovered as far as to reach 152 all out.
England lost their openers cheaply, but Ian Bell and Gary Ballance played fluently to reach 113-3 by stumps.
With the pitch playing better after some damp morning conditions, England could find batting considerably easier on Day 2—and even another two sessions of batting could open up a sizeable lead.
|India, 1st Innings|
|Vijay||c Cook||b Anderson||0||19||14|
|Gambhir||c Root||b Broad||4||13||7|
|Pujara||c Jordan||b Broad||0||11||6|
|Kohli||c Cook||b Anderson||0||2|
|Rahane||c Bell||b Jordan||24||90||52|
|Dhoni||c Jordan||b Broad||71||200||133|
|Ashwin||c Robson||b Broad||40||68||42|
|B Kumar||b Broad||0||7||6|
|Extras||0nb 1w 10b 1lb||12|
|Total||all out (46.4 ovs)||152|
It was not the easiest toss—both captains said when interviewed on television after the toss that they would have batted first.
But with the rain of the morning freshening up the pitch and low clouds overhead, there was plenty of assistance for the bowlers—and James Anderson and Stuart Broad delivered a masterclass.
Within six overs Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli were all back in the pavilion, all edging behind to the slip cordon.
It was a devastating spell, one from which no recovery was possible.
Ajinkya Rahane, arguably the pick of the India batsmen in this series, showed some defiance, while MS Dhoni also responded with character as the ball nibbled around.
But Chris Jordan collected Rahane's scalp to restore England's momentum just before the lunch interval.
Dhoni was, given the limitations of his technique on a lively English wicket, excellent. And he found a partner, too—once Ravindra Jadeja's stay in the middle was ended by Anderson for a seven-ball duck; the returning Ravi Ashwin belied his spot at No. 8 in the order to play with fluency.
The stand was worth 66 in 14 overs, Ashwin adding 40 of them, before his departure to Stuart Broad signalled the beginning of the end.
Ashwin departed playing the hook and holing out before Bhuvneshwar Kumar was bowled leaving an in swinger. Dhoni slogged out on 71 and Pankaj Singh missed a straight one.
Broad's figures of 6-25 did not flatter him, but they could easily have gone to Anderson. Either way, after the failures of bowling first on a green pitch at Lord's, this was a job well done.
|England, 1st Innings|
|Cook||c Singh||b Aaron||17||58||42|
|Robson||b B Kumar||6||37||24|
|Extras||2nb 2w 0b 4lb||8|
|Total||for 3 (35.0 ovs)||113|
India had to strike early, and they did their best—Sam Robson's technique was exposed when Kumar bowled him with an inswinger, and Alastair Cook was out to the hook after being hurried by Varun Aaron, who replaced Mohamed Shami for the Test.
But under blue skies, the weather improved and so did England's fortunes with the willow.
Bell looked full of confidence, playing late cuts and measured shots to spin as he eased to 45 from 56 deliveries.
And if Ballance had not been given out to Aaron late in the day, it would have left England in perfect shape for Friday's play.
Instead, the home side will resume with Bell and nightwatchman Chris Jordan looking to pile on the runs and bat their way into a position to secure a 2-1 lead in the series.