NEW DELHI, Dec. 8: Ravichandran Ashwin took the centre stage late in the day as India roared back into the contest after Keaton Jennings had driven England into a strong position with a debut century. At the close of play on the opening day of the fourth Test at Wankhede in Mumbai, England were 288/5 thanks largely to Jennings 112. India will be content with their performance which was driven by Ashwin's 4/69 - three of the scalps coming in the final session.
With the score 196/2 at tea break and a set pair in the middle, Alastair Cook must have thought England have done a more than an impressive job by keeping Indian spinners at bay on track which is already turning and gripping. England switched a gear with Moeen Ali carving Ravindra Jadeja for a four and a six over deep midwicket right after the start of the third session. He then slog swept Jayant Yadav for two fours in three deliveries and England were now beginning to dominate.
But there's a reason why Ashwin is the top-ranked bowler in the world currently and in three deliveries, he shifted the momentum in India's favour. Ali, moments after completing his half-century, played one shot too many, top edging a sweep to Karun Nair off Ashwin. A delivery later, Jennings, who looked in good control while playing on the front foot, ended up edging one to gully where Cheteshwar Pujara completed a good catch to end his memorable knock. Jonny Bairstow soon followed him to the dressing room, caught in the deep for 14 off Ashwin.
Before the late strikes, Jennings became the 19th England batsman to hit a century on Test debut, carrying his rich domestic form to international level. After a nervy start he slowly settled in, going on the back foot to pull with aplomb and stretching forward to play crisp drives. The most memorable of his shots was a reverse sweep for four that took him to three figures. His temperament and confidence was on full display as he pulled out a surprise reverse-sweep to release the pressure put on by the Indian spinners following the dismissal of Joe Root who was given a life when Parthiv Patel missed a stumping chance. But thanks to Virat Kohli's superb reflexes in the slips as he made late adjustment to complete a sharp catch, ending Root's knock at 21. That dismissal signaled a change in momentum as the spinners took over, troubling the new man Ali with turn and bounce. Jennings though broke the shackles with two stunning fours employing reverse sweep and a cover drive.
The proceedings were briefly halted when Bhuvneshwar Kumar's loopy throw from the deep caught umpire Paul Reiffel flush in the head. He left the field after being briefly attended by the England physio and was replaced by Marais Erasmus.
Ashwin tried luring Jennings into drives but the left-hander stood up to the challenge, not falling for them. He refrained from playing any rash shot considering the help India were extracting from the pitch.
Cook, expectedly, opted to bat after winning his second toss in a row and for company at the top had debutant Jennings, who became his 11th opening partner in the last four years.
Both began nervously. Cook edged Bhuvneshwar past the gully fielder early on for his first boundary while Jennings was given a life when he was yet to open his account as Karun failed to hold on to a difficult catch at gully. But right afterwards, he gathered himself to score back-to back fours - a neat cut past the point region followed by a confident pull.
Ashwin was soon drafted in to bowl the eighth over and extracted extra bounce and turn but was dealt with appropriately. Bhuvneshwar continued from the other end, bowling a rather long eight-over spell that ended after Jennings cover-drove and pulled him for two boundaries before the drinks-break.
The pitch has been predicted to assist spinners more by the end of the day and Ashwin put his rubber stamp on it when he drew Cook forward but the ball turned to beat the edge. However, with pace from the other end, England kept a positive intent to score runs and soon offspinner Jayant Yadav was pressed into action to join Ashwin as the session drew to a close.
Cook then struck consecutive boundaries off Ashwin which was followed by Jennings completing his half-century. Cook was uncharacteristically positive and often danced down the track and even converted them into boundaries. However, it was one such charge that resulted in his fall as he was stumped off Ravindra Jadeja on 46.
Ben Stokes (25*) and Jos Buttler (18*) were then subjected to a stern test and they survived the nervy phase, remaining unbeaten.
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