It’s all square at The Oval! Who’s going to make strides towards a series lead? Joe Root’s England or Virat Kohli’s India? Follow it all on our live blog. For ball-by-ball commentary click here. For our coverage in Hindi click here.
England 53 for 3 trail India 191 (Thakur 57, Kohli 50, Woakes 4-55, Robinson 3-38) by 138 runs
India were bowled out cheaply on the first day for the second Test in a row but will feel like they have a foothold after taking three England wickets in the late-afternoon sun at The Oval.
Chris Woakes – playing a first-class game for the first time since August 2020 after missing 11 Tests through isolation, rotation and injury – took four wickets and Ollie Robinson continued his fine summer with three, with England’s seamers relentlessly effective in reducing India to 127 for 7.
Most of India’s batters had made starts before dismissals – Virat Kohli was the exception, playing fluently for 50 before falling to Robinson for the fourth time in the series – but Shardul Thakur’s 57 off 36 balls changed the complexion of their innings. He teed off from No. 8 after being recalled to the side, and his half-century – the fastest recorded in a Test in England – gave India something to bowl at.
England had chosen to bowl after winning the toss in overcast conditions but were basking in hazy sunshine by the time their openers headed out midway through the final session. But three late wickets – both openers falling to Jasprit Bumrah and Joe Root castled by Umesh Yadav – left them teetering at 53 for 3 by the close.
Full report to follow…
6.25pm: Unplayable Umesh
A huge moment in this game as we approach the close. Root has been in the form of his life and looked in superb touch throughout this session but is beaten by a seam-bowling’s dream delivery from Umesh Yadav. Immaculate line and length, jagging back past the bat and kissing the top of off stump. Root goes for 21 and England send in Craig Overton as nightwatchman.
6.10pm: England rebuild
Serene progress from Joe Root and Dawid Malan, who are scoring at five an over while taking minimal risks. India’s change bowlers, Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Siraj, have started slightly loosely but every bad ball is being punished; Root in particular looks like he has picked up where he left off in Leeds.
5.30pm: Boom, boom
Two early wickets for Jasprit Bumrah have thrown this game wide open. First, a stroke of fortune: a nip-backer from a length which Rory Burns only manages to play onto his own stumps, which is becoming a worryingly frequent mode of dismissal for him. Then, a poor shot from Haseeb Hameed, trying to back-cut over the slips, and Bumrah finds some extra bounce from back of a length to take the edge.
India have started well, with Umesh Yadav backing Bumrah up at the far end and beating Dawid Malan a couple of times in his third over. If they can get even one more tonight, they’ll be right in the game.
5.20pm: Kohli’s remonstrations
Kohli doesn’t seem too happy with Haseeb Hameed’s guard – which he took with meticulous precision, scratching out a mark in line with middle stump 12 times, then five scratches each for leg and off stump. The one in line with off was particularly far down the pitch, which seems to be the source of Kohli’s frustration, but umpire Illingworth shrugs off his complaints. The ‘protected area’ is five foot in front of the crease, and Hameed’s mark seems to have fallen within that distance.
5.00pm: Pure carnage
It’s all happening with the late-afternoon sun shining at The Oval. Thakur’s fun is over as England win an lbw decision against him on review, giving Woakes a fourth wicket, then a moment of unadulterated chaos: Umesh Yadav edges a chance to slip where he is dropped by Craig Overton; Bumrah, yet to face a ball, sets off for a single; Burns picks it up at second slip and hurls the stumps down; and Bumrah is way short of his ground. Two balls later, an excellent one-handed catch by Bairstow finishes things off, and India are bowled out for 191.
4.50pm: 50 off 31!
Blink and you’ll miss it. Shardul Thakur has been chancing his arm and has just crushed the second-fastest Test fifty by an Indian, and the fastest-ever at The Oval. He has swung hard over the leg side and flat-batted over mid-off, and England have struggled to come up with an answer with the old ball. There was a moment of fortune on 43 when Bairstow put down a regulation chance after he gloved an attempted pull to a Robinson bouncer, but Thakur won’t mind one bit. He roars in celebration and raises his bat to the Indian dressing room.
4.40pm: How can India solve their batting problems?
I’ve been having a back-and-forth with our news editor, Nagraj Gollapudi, who is at The Oval watching another disappointing Indian batting performance and is particularly frustrated with Rishabh Pant’s form…
NG: Wriddhiman Saha must feel so unlucky that he has to sit out with Pant in this sort of form – averaging 16 in the series after his dismissal today.
MR: Hmm, you’re a better player when you’re out the team. Saha made two single-figure scores and didn’t take a catch or a stumping in his last Test in Adelaide, and has hardly played any cricket since then. It’s not like he’d be scoring any more runs than Pant, and he’s not exactly a long-term option aged 36.
NG: If this was the other way round, everyone would want Pant in.
MR: Because he averages 10 more and is 13 years younger!
NG: But Saha is a safer pair of hands any day. And right now, Pant the batter has been absent in this series.
MR: I agree with that – he’s been getting out in similar ways and always looks like his dismissal is just around the corner. But Saha is surely too high at No. 6, and India will want to pick five bowling options.
NG: Saha has the technique – whether he can sustain such disciplined bowling, we can only find out when he is thrown in the middle. The question for India is: is it worth trying him for just one Test in Manchester? Or persist with Pant, who has a frazzled mind and doesn’t seem to trust his defence anymore? I agree with you that India sticking to the five-bowler formula is not helping their batting, but if you play Vihari, then you are adding pressure on a tired bowling attack.
MR: I think five bowlers is the right option, but they just need Ashwin to be one of them. He has five Test hundreds so would strengthen the batting, especially if he comes in for one of the seamers. The biggest problem for me is Rahane.
NG: I’m not sure Ashwin will solve their batting problems. There are lots of them: Rahul is getting out the same way he did in 2018, Kohli remains vulnerable, Rahane cannot stop poking his bat at everything, Pujara ditto and Pant only can charge. Just picking Ashwin won’t solve any of that.
Meanwhile, Shardul Thakur has been having some fun. He has raced to 39 off 25 balls and is threatening to drag India up past 200 – which would be a serious effort from where they were half an hour ago.
4.15pm: A life for Pant… then a mercy kill
Sky have been showing a package of Pant’s dismissals in this series, many of them poking at balls outside his off stump which are angled across him. No sooner had it finished, Woakes draws a false shot. Pant plays with hard hands, wafting loosely, and a thick edge flies into the cordon. But Overton dives across Burns, who was well set to take it at second slip, and puts it down himself. See my 1.55pm entry on changes in personnel – Overton is a good slip catcher, but it might make more sense for England to have Moeen at third slip on a permanent basis rather than switching between them based on when Overton is or isn’t bowling.
But it doesn’t matter. Pant skips down an toe-ends a hoick straight down Moeen’s throat, set deep at mid-off. Slower ball from Woakes, not picked. He will get pelters for that, no doubt, and has looked out of form throughout this tour, second-guessing his own method and technique. That said, he was left in a situation where attacking was his only real option, batting with the lower order from the start of his innings.
3.30pm: Pant’s dilemma
Rishabh Pant is having a difficult tour, struggling against Robinson in particular who has dismissed him four times across the series. He has been uncharacteristically restrained for most of his innings today – it is among his slowest in Tests at this early stage – though did skip down the track for one ungainly wipe early on.
Writing in the Telegraph last week, Tim Wigmore suggested that counterintuitively, Pant might be better served by attacking than defence. “In seven Tests in England, he has been dismissed defending every 27 balls, compared to 49 balls for all batsmen in the top six in this time,” he pointed out. “So when he defends the ball in England, Pant is almost twice as likely to be dismissed as the average top-order batsman. Seen through this light, Pant’s embrace of attacking is not so much a deliberate choice as a reflection of a lack of alternatives.”
With Rahane falling to an excellent low catch at third slip from Moeen Ali off Craig Overton, Pant only has the lower order for company. Will he look to swing his way to a score at the venue where he made his first Test hundred three years ago?
3.10pm: Robinson gets Kohli
Robinson didn’t bowl to Kohli at Trent Bridge but has got him in each of the last three Tests now, conceding 37 runs. Movement away off the seam does for Kohli as he shapes to work to leg. Robinson is a long way clear at the top of the wicket-taking charts for this series while averaging a shade under 18. He’s been impressive against Pant in this series as well – who is the new man in his new role at No. 7.
2.40pm: Kohli’s tweaks
Kohli was given a life earlier in his innings but excusing that blemish, he has looked in sublime touch throughout this innings. His timing has been spot-on – best evidence by a compact, back-foot punch that raced away across the practice pitches for three – and he has driven sweetly through the covers, even licking his lips after lacing one through extra cover off Anderson to move to 45.
He appears to have made a minor technical tweak, starting slightly further across his stumps. That doesn’t appear to have made a significant or obvious difference to his defensive game but he has been happier to attack when England have strayed in their line, throwing his hands and playing with the swing against wide outswingers. He also brought up another landmark earlier in his innings:
2.10pm: Making amends
Root holds on at the second time of asking, just about clinging onto a chance as Woakes finds Jadeja’s outside edge. He nearly made a mess of it, though: it’s really tough for the slips this afternoon because the ball is actually swinging between the edge and the slip cordon. It doesn’t take a lip-reading expert to see Root say an expletive, then “that swung late”. Tough work for slip catchers out there, as well as batters.
1.55pm: Root shells Kohli
A big moment. Chris Woakes nips one away to take Virat Kohli’s outside edge but the catch goes down, Root moving late to his right at first slip. He gets a life on 22. George Dobell wrote at Lord’s that England’s catching was undermining their wider ambitions as a side and they improved markedly at Headingley with a reshuffled slip cordon, but regular changes of personnel are rarely helpful.
Jos Buttler’s absence in this Test – on paternity leave – has seen Jonny Bairstow take the gloves, having been positioned at second slip in Leeds. Rory Burns is in there instead and this was probably his catch; Root saw it late, moved late, and couldn’t cling on. In fact, Bairstow went for a very similar chance at second slip off KL Rahul last week and held it. Burns is the fourth man to field at second slip for England in the series (Bairstow, Sibley, Crawley) and their third slip is rotating between Moeen Ali and Craig Overton today.
1.10pm: What’s the thinking?
Osman Samiuddin wrote about Rahane’s intriguing series – and career – heading into this Test and here is his take on the decision to shuffle him down to No. 6.
So, who’da thunk leaving R Ashwin out this morning would be the less weird, less talked-about decision of the day? Sending in Ravindra Jadeja at No. 5, on the first morning of a Test in England? Not least because it is only the third time in his career he’s batted top five in Tests. He batted at No. 4 a couple of years ago against South Africa but that was in a second-innings hunt for quick runs.
The time before that was four years ago, in Bengaluru against Australia and on that occasion in the third innings of the game, as our ball-by-ball commentary recorded it, the move made sense because left-handed batters had done well on the surface. It didn’t last long though.
But sending him out, ahead of the specialist No. 5 and Rishabh Pant, on a cloudy morning against a living legend? Exactly why Jadeja walked in then we won’t know until the end of play, but Rahane looked like he was padded up and ready to come in once Cheteshwar Pujara fell.
Sid Monga, who’s on ball-by-ball duties today, has a theory and I (foolishly) often buy into them. “So apart from being a leftie, he is splitting the three struggling batters and also hoping he faces out the seam movement,” is his guess. Him being left-handed might be the key although it’s not as if Anderson is poor against left-handed batters: he averages 20.36 against them. Jadeja’s seen it out till lunch though and it’s not going to be uninteresting after the break.
12.40pm: Jadeja promoted
Where did that come from? Anderson gets Pujara caught behind, drawing him into the shot with an outswinger on a tight line and a fullish length, and in walks…
Ajinkya Rahane Ravindra Jadeja. Intriguing call. Rahane has his pads on so hasn’t pinged a hamstring in the dressing room or anything like that. Jadeja has been in a great run of form with the bat but has only batted in the top five twice before in Tests.
12.15pm: Robinson gets Rahul
India were 28 for 0 off 7 overs, then managed 0 for 2 in the next 7, with Ollie Robinson and Chris Woakes getting the ball to swing and keeping incredibly disciplined in their lengths, resisting the temptation to go too full. Robinson has just got KL Rahul with a nip-backer – which has previously been a real weakness for him in Test cricket – which hit him high on the back pad, but the DRS upheld the on-field decision.
Robinson has been remarkable for England this summer – it says plenty that he was given the new ball ahead of Woakes this morning – and has impressed James Anderson too, who was writing about their relationship in his Telegraph column this week.
“We have a similar outlook on bowling,” Anderson said. “Essentially we like showing off. We both know we have good skills with the ball and on our day we can be a real handful. We like tormenting batsmen. We hate going for runs and we love taking wickets. He has got that aggressive streak as well, getting in a battle with the opposition. It adds something to his game. He is very passionate about playing for England. The key, and something I have had to learn, is controlling aggression and making it work to your advantage.
“We get on really well on and off the field. We have a real interest in the game. He wants to learn and talk about bowling. It is exactly like what I am like. Whether in nets or at dinner, we just try to chat and learn the whole time. It does help when you have that natural understanding, knowing what each other is doing and your strengths.”
11.45am: Woakes strikes early
Expensive start from James Anderson, who was punished for overpitching – according to ESPNcricinfo’s ball-by-ball data, his six ‘full’ balls across his first spell were taken for 16 runs, including three boundaries. The early signs are that the pitch is quite slow and easy-paced, with the ball losing a lot of its speed after pitching.
But Chris Woakes, returning to the Test side after a year away through various mishaps – self-isolation, rotation and injury – immediately got the ball hooping, swinging it away markedly from Rohit Sharma’s outside edge. He made the breakthrough with one of the shortest balls of the morning, banging it in, nipping it away with some extra bounce to kiss the shoulder of Rohit’s bat, before celebrating with uncharacteristic aggression, roaring and pumping his fist.
11.25am: Nagraj Gollapudi weighs in
Minutes before the Indian team huddle, India head coach Ravi Shastri walked up to R Ashwin and had a quick, quiet word, Nagraj Gollapudi writes. Shastri then put his arms around Ashwin’s shoulders and patted him and walked away. From a distance you would not have guessed what Shastri said: was Ashwin playing his first Test of the Pataudi Trophy? Or was he told, ‘sorry’. There was no change in Ashwin’s body language as he continue bowling in the side nets. Minutes later he would join the team huddle, but not the group of players who were told they were in and went on to do warm-up drills. Ashwin went back to the side net and continued to bowl at yellow rubber stumps, at times bending them back.
Soon after as the toss happened Ashwin picked up his tracksuit and started to walk back. As he climbed the steps towards the dressing room, he would have heard Kohli respond to Mike Atherton’s question as to why India still could not find space for India’s best spinner. Would he buy Kohli’s explanation especially the point about Jadeja being equally potent against England’s four left-handers?
While we won’t know the details even if that conversation happens, it has been hard for many on the outside to comprehend Ashwin not being able to find a spot. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to think the reason India have more belief in Jadeja is because he has proved to be a more reliable batter than even Rishabh Pant. But Ashwin has a first-class average of nearly 32 in England making 814 runs including three half-centuries in 32 innings. That is similar to Jadeja who has made 566 runs at 31.44 average in 19 innings with five fifties. So Ashwin is clearly no mug with the bat.
Writing in the Telegraph on Thursday, Dinesh Karthik said India should definitely make a place for Ashwin who would bring a “new dimension” to India’s gameplans, both with the ball and bat. However, the Indian team management thinks differently.
After the Headingly defeat Kohli categorically ruled out fielding two spinners as he felt that would hurt the balance and then India would only be playing defensively. But Ashwin has shown he can win a Test single-handedly with the ball. It is no doubt tricky being a leader and having to make selections which are not easy. Kohli has immense belief in the Indian fast-bowling attack to take 20 wickets, but without the senior pair of Ishant and Shami, and having not considered Ashwin once again, his words and thoughts might come back to haunt him if the result goes against India at The Oval.
10.55am: An early Pujara sighting
India supporters will be hoping not to see Cheteshwar Pujara until a good while into the morning session, but there is an early sighting – he has been speaking to Sky in the build-up. He went into the third Test under pressure but his second-innings 91 has taken some of the heat off.
“I felt that I was batting well but wasn’t able to score big runs,” Pujara said. “I’ve always been confident. I’ve been getting good starts but I wanted a big one which hadn’t happened in a few games so it was really good to get some runs.
“We’ve been playing on challenging pitches, no doubt about that. There was enough assistance for spinners back home [against England]. Mentally, yes, it’s tough when you’re not among the runs but you have to be confident that it’s a matter of one innings for a batter. I always feel that if you get a good innings then you get good confidence and can always carry on from there.
“We spoke about it as a batting group. It’s always challenging here. You have to concentrate hard and the margin of error is really small. We didn’t bat well in the last game but that’s what you expect when you’re playing overseas. You’re always challenged but we’re a confident group. We’ve done well overseas whether it’s Australia or South Africa, so this team has a lot of confidence playing in overseas conditions.”
10.30am: Still no Ashwin…
India stick with the four seamers/one spinner balance: Mohammed Shami has a niggle, Ishant Sharma is left out and Ashwin continues to miss out. “Stubborn,” is Warne’s assessment. “I would have played Ashwin. You don’t pick a side just for the first innings – it will turn – and he’s got five Test hundreds.”
Virat Kohli suggested that Ravindra Jadeja is a better match-up – despite England having four left-handers – because of their right-arm seamers predominantly bowling over the wicket, creating rough outside the lefties’ off stump. “It’s something that we thought is a good match-up for Jadeja as well, because mostly all our seamers bowl over the wicket,” he said at the toss. “It’s a nice little spot for the left-handers as well. I think according to the match-ups, it fits perfectly for our team – plus the balance he is giving us with the bat as well currently.” But surely there is room in the side to pick both?
England, meanwhile, bring back Chris Woakes as expected. Ollie Pope plays ahead of Dan Lawrence on his home ground, where he averages a shade over 100 for Surrey in first-class cricket.
10.10am: Ashwin time?
Once is a mistake. Twice is a choice. Three times is a habit. Will India really leave R Ashwin out for the fourth Test in a row? It’s a dark, overcast morning in south London which might tempt them to pick an extra seamer instead, but The Oval suits spin more than most grounds in England – although the pitch looks like it has a covering of grass on it.
Ashwin hasn’t played in nearly two months, but he took 6 for 27 in his most recent bowl – which was at The Oval, playing for Surrey on a turning pitch in the County Championship. Shane Warne has been pushing for his inclusion on Sky Sports this morning – there’s a surprise – but makes an excellent point that Ravindra Jadeja effectively becomes the fourth seamer, or the holding bowler, because of his ability to bowl dry and defensively. We’ll find out if India think the same before long.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98