On a day one marred by the rain of the rescheduled fifth Test at Edgbaston in Birmingham on Friday, Rishabh Pant performed a knock for the ages to turn the tables on England and lead India to a commanding 338 for seven.
India was on the verge of defeat at 98 for five until Rishabh Pant (146 off 111 balls) and Ravindra Jadeja (83 batting off 163) fashioned a spectacular comeback.
The pair established a game-changing 222-run partnership off 239 balls to save India. Pant’s incredible performance included 20 boundaries and four sixes, leaving the England bowlers powerless.
Only 73 overs could be bowled on the first day due to the morning rain. After recently coming under fire for his problems in the white-ball version of the game, Pant showed his passion for the red-ball version by slamming his fifth century overall and fourth in foreign circumstances.
The weather and the nature of the game were against him, but he once again benefited from it and frustrated the opponents. As only he could, he reverses scooped the legendary James Anderson while playing more traditional shots like straight drives and back foot punches on his way to the quickest hundred (89 balls) by an Indian wicketkeeper.
In the anxious 1990s, he tumbled to the ground when trying an aerial over Jack Leach but was still rewarded with a four, and the next over saw him reach three figures.
Stokes thought Leach would succeed against Pant, but the strategy utterly flopped as the southpaw gathered boundaries off the left-arm spinner mercilessly. Leach finished the day with stats of 0/71 in 9 overs. Leach’s last over of the day was when Pant went on the offensive, crushing him with two sixes and as many fours.
Pant has already joined the list of the best Indian wicketkeeper-batters, with a few hundred in England, one in Australia and South Africa.
The 24-year-outstanding old’s innings ended as the game drew to a close, with part-timer Joe Root making the crucial breakthrough. Jadeja, too contributed significantly to India’s incredible comeback and delivered several enjoyable drives along the road. He saw Pant’s bold stroke from the other end and relished it.
The afternoon session was played in brilliant sunlight after the weather caused overs to be lost in the previous two sessions. After the visitors lost half their side soon after noon, India could rally to 174 for five at tea thanks to the counter-attacking duo of Pant and Jadeja.
The second session was delayed by an hour due to rain, but England had India completely dominated as soon as the play started.
While Anderson caused the most damage in the morning, England went on to win after lunch thanks to Matthew Potts’ valuable wickets of an uninspired Virat Kohli (11) and a wobbly Hanuma Vihari (20).
Potts caught Vihari in front of the stumps with a full delivery that veered sharply back, and he was the first out. Kohli pulled one into his stumps in his feeble effort to escape the ball during Potts’ subsequent over.
In his debut Test outside India, Shreyas Iyer (15 off 11 balls) got off to an aggressive start by collecting three fours off of Potts. Iyer, who has had difficulty against the short ball, was the subject of research by Anderson and the support staff.
Sam Billings made a spectacular one-handed grab, diving full-stretch to his left after the 39-year-old pacer aimed one around the region of the rib cage that caused a slight edge.
At that point, India seemed to be on its last legs, but the two southpaws, Pant and Jadeja, gave the innings new energy.
By moving forward and slamming Anderson to the ground, Pant made his intentions known loud and clear. Jadeja also used his strokes, with the straight drive and cover drive off Broad being the standouts.
In the earlier rain-delayed morning session, England’s most decorated bowler, Anderson, bowled probing spells to reduce India to 53 for two. The lunch break had to start 20 minutes early due to rain.
After Stokes decided to “chase” at Edgbaston, Anderson had openers Shubman Gill (17 off 24) and Cheteshwar Pujara (13 off 46) caught by Zak Crawley at second slip to give England the edge.
India might have been three down if Crawley had failed to capitalize on a challenging opportunity Vihari offered off Matthew Potts.