India’s spinners dialled up the heat on England on the first day of the first Test, leaving the tourists 215 for eight at tea on a turning track in Hyderabad.
Although the movement was not yet extreme, it was enough for the slow bowlers to share seven wickets in two sessions, with England captain Ben Stokes making a late charge on 43 not out.
Stokes’ hopes of batting first were realised when he won a crucial toss and, for 45 minutes, everything went England’s way as openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett kicked off the tour with a busy stand of 55.
But their fortunes nosedived as soon as the hosts swapped out seam for spin, losing three wickets in 21 balls for the addition of just five runs as familiar foes Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja took hold.
The Yorkshire duo of Joe Root (29) and Jonny Bairstow (37), both experienced campaigners in these taxing conditions, worked hard to repair the damage with a 61-run partnership but trouble resurfaced after lunch.
England lost both in quick succession, Bairstow finding a good rhythm before falling to the ball of the day from Axar Patel and Root top-edging a sweep to short fine-leg.
Welcome to the club, @tomhartley100 👏
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) January 25, 2024
India snapped up another three before the break, including debutant Tom Hartley for a lively 23, but could not shut down Stokes.
He collected five boundaries, turning up the aggression with some neat reverse sweeps and crisp drives to carry his side past the 200 mark.
The hosts devoted the first eight overs of the game to pace but despite a hint of swing for Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah, Crawley and Duckett took their chance to get on top with a handful of boundaries.
Crawley produced a pair of beautifully balanced on-drives, with Duckett riding the odd play-and-miss as he attacked the off side. At 41 for nought, India skipper Rohit Sharma had seen enough and sent for spin.
Almost instantly, things began to happen. Duckett swept a couple of fours before he became the first wicket of the series, pushing forward with a straight bat and falling for 35 as Ashwin won a tight lbw.
Ollie Pope, playing his first innings since the second Ashes Test in June, followed close behind. He lasted 11 uncomfortable deliveries before nicking Jadeja tamely to slip for one. After six months on the shelf, the cobwebs were clear to see.
A big lbw shout against the newly-arrived Root came moments later, but after a long delay DRS appeared to show a thin edge before impact with the pad.
England’s relief lasted just a matter of seconds with Crawley driving Ashwin low to mid-off. At 60 for three it was a tense time but Bairstow’s arrival at his former IPL home ground shifted the tone.
He led the way in his stand with Root, seeing England to 108 at lunch. There was a growing sense of calm as they resumed but Patel produced a cracker to dismiss Bairstow, spearing it in on a leg-stump line and ripping it into the top of off. Bairstow was nearly blameless but Root took a share of the blame when a hard-handed sweep at Jadeja looped high in the air.
Ben Foakes nicked Patel behind for four on his return to the side, Rehan Ahmed was done by an off-cutter as Bumrah returned for a second spell and Hartley was cleaned up by Jadeja after a sparky knock that included a swatted six off Ashwin.