Big Picture: The Indian bowlers stuck to their guns and combined to deliver telling blows in the final session of the first day of the fifth and final Test against England to reduce them to 198 for 7 on Friday (September 7) at The Oval in London. The home side were too consumed on their defensive technique, something which worked for them in the first two sessions, but they lost their way in the final one, losing six wickets for 67 runs.
Playing in his final Test, Alastair Cook scored the first half-century by an opener in this series in a typically resolute 190-ball 71. He was supported by Moeen Ali who added 73 runs for the second wicket with the former skipper while scoring his slowest ever fifty in Test cricket. Barring Ravindra Jadeja, who snagged 2 for 57, every Indian bowler conceded runs at under two runs an over.
Plays of the Day
After scoring his first fifty in nine innings, Cook looked set to score a fairytale hundred on his farewell. His unflappable temperament coupled with his discipline to balls outside his off stump gave him a realistic chance of reaching the three-figure mark. But just 26 balls into the final session, Jasprit Bumrah induced a false shot which brought an end to his innings. He was left seemingly surprised by Bumrah's incoming delivery from around the stumps which Cook could only play it back onto his stumps. He soaked in the standing ovation but opened the door for an Indian comeback.
Performer of the Day
Ishant Sharma was easily the pick of the bowlers for India, with figures of 3 for 28. He bowled tirelessly and accurately, his patience finally rewarded in the final session in the form of an outside edge off Johnny Bairstow's bat. It was a game of cat and mouse between him and Moeen Ali as Sharma got past the edge of his bat on numerous occasions. He finally found that elusive nick and went on to snap Sam Curran, who has been a thorn in the flesh of the tourists, with another delivery that straightened after pitching. With that he also catapulted himself to the top of the list of Indian bowlers with most test wickets in England.
England ended up in a funk despite a bright start with their conservative approach today. They would, again, look to Jos Buttler to get some crucial runs along the tail. It was a perfect day for India but Virat Kohli would want his bowlers to take the last three wickets quickly and keep England below 225. India has squandered similar opportunities in the series and will be wary, but this dead rubber on paper has already come alive.