Superb Rishabh Pant century turns Indian fortunes around against England
Rishabh Pant gave England a taste of their own medicine as his counter-attacking century flipped India’s fortunes on day one of their rearranged series decider at Edgbaston.
England were making all the running when they reduced their opponents to 98 for five, but were taken apart by Pant’s rampant 146 off just 111 balls.
The wicketkeeper hit 19 fours and four sixes as he dominated a stand of 222 with Ravindra Jadeja (83no) , smashing his way out of a sticky spot in the way England did on several occasions during their 3-0 whitewash of New Zealand.
England’s buccaneering methods have been dubbed ‘Bazball’ in honour of head coach Brendon McCullum, but Pant has always played the game at his own tempo and this was a timely reminder of his own maverick qualities.
India closed on 338 for seven after Joe Root’s part-time spin finally ended Pant’s assault, James Anderson having taken three wickets and Matthew Potts the prize scalp of Virat Kohli.
This fifth LV= Insurance Test is a curiosity in an already packed fixture list, completing last summer’s series following the 11th hour abandonment in Manchester. India retain their 2-1 lead, but with changes of captain, coach and personnel in each dressing room this was a fresh challenge for all concerned.
England skipper Stokes started with a typically bold gambit, putting India in with the hope of maximising early cloud cover and keeping his side’s hot streak of chasing targets.
India first-time captain Jasprit Bumrah had been keen to bat first too, but the early skirmishes went with the home side. Nobody is better under gloomy English skies than Anderson, back in the side after ankle trouble, and he took out both openers in a morning session cut short by rain.
Shubman Gill was first to go for 17, pushing hard outside off and feeding Zak Crawley at slip. Cheteshwar Pujara has acclimatised for this game with a prolific overseas stint at Sussex but that preparation counted for nothing when Anderson got one to stand up, hold its line and flick the edge on its way through to Crawley.
Those hoping to see the renewal of Anderson’s long-running rivalry with Kohli were frustrated by the weather, which kept the sides off for over two hours.
When play did resume it was Potts who seized the initiative, almost persuading Kohli to play on with the very first ball of the afternoon before making a huge double strike.
The Durham seamer continued steaming in and proceeded to pick up two big wickets in seven deliveries.
Hanuma Vihari was first, for a leaden-footed lbw, but the main event saw Kohli flattening his own stumps with a drag-on. Unsure whether to leave or play in the channel he did not commit fully to either option and paid the price, with the Eric Hollies Stand bidding him “cheerio” as Potts revelled in the moment.
Having dismissed New Zealand captain Kane Williamson three times in four innings, Potts’ knack of landing the biggest fish had struck again.
By the time Sam Billings pulled off an acrobatic one-gloved catch down leg, Shreyas Iyer having been suckered in by an Anderson bouncer than jagged off the seam, India were in trouble at 98 for five.
Pant trusted his attacking instincts to see him through, swinging hard in pursuit of the boundaries that would shift the pressure. He offered up a chance off Stuart Broad on just five, but Joe Root’s take at slip was not upheld by the third umpire. From there he racked up a run-a-ball half-century, including a three-ball sequence of two fours and a six off Jack Leach’s spin.
With Jadeja offering calm-headed support, India clawed back some of the lost ground heading into an extended final session. That is when Pant dialled things up a notch, putting a hefty dent in Potts’ figures as he pulled and drove him off his length.
Leach went at him again but with precious little spin he looked like cannon fodder. Pant knocked himself off his feet with a mow down the ground to reach 96 and was back on the deck as he dived for the run that completed his fifth Test hundred.
He had converted his half century in just 38 balls, scoring fast enough to leave Jonny Bairstow nodding in appreciation. There was no going back now, with Leach footing the bill as he shipped 22 in a single over.
A ragged spell from Stokes, featuring a handful of no-balls and some wayward bouncers followed before the SOS to Root paid dividends. Pant attempted one big shot too many immediately after his latest maximum, thick-edging to slip.
Shardul Thakur edged Stokes behind to give England another boost before stumps, but the day was defined by Pant’s spirit of adventure.
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