The dropped catches of England captain Alastair Cook and debutant opener Haseeb Hameed in the first hour of play spoiled India’s chances of getting an early crack at the visiting team’s middle-order, conceded India’s batting coach Sanjay Bangar after day’s play.
“In the first session of day one of a Test match there’s always something in the wicket. Whether you bat or bowl first, you need to make the first session count. There were unfortunately a couple of dropped catches which did not allow us to make those early dents into their bating line-up. That set us back,” said Bangar at the media conference after day one of the opening cricket Test.
“We could have definitely started well in that first session. Had we taken those catches we would probably have been asking questions to their middle-order,” Bangar rued.
Cook was dropped on zero off the third ball of the series opener by Ajinkya Rahane at gully off Mohammed Shami, while Hameed was grassed at first slip by Murali Vijay off the other medium-pacer Umesh Yadav in the 10th over when the 19-year-old was on 13 in a team score of 24.
Luckily the two errors did not cost India too many runs as both were dismissed before lunch, Cook falling for 21 and Hameed for 31, but cost the hosts a chance to get a shot at the England’s middle-order early on.
Joe Root then came up with a classy innings of 124, his eleventh ton and first in India, and put on 179 runs for the fourth wicket with Moeen Ali, who remained unbeaten on 99.
In fact, Ali too was being let off soon after reaching his half-century by Cheteshwar Pujara off Ravichandran Ashwin with England in a healthy-looking position at 311 for four at stumps on the first day.
Bangar said even after the let-offs, Indian bowlers managed to reduce England to 102 for three at lunch before the visitors took charge in the last two sessions.
“But at lunch I feel we still managed to pick up three wickets. We would still have taken that at the start of the session. But full credit to them; they fully utilised the conditions on offer in Rajkot on day one. It was a day one wicket. Rajkot is known to be a batsman’s paradise. They are quality players and they applied themselves well,” he said.
However, he was quite optimistic that not everything was lost as yet.
“The game changes quickly. They are four down at the moment. A couple of quick wickets (tomorrow) and we could make early inroads, wrap them up before a session and half. You never know. It’s still day one and had we taken those catches, we could have taken six wickets and conceded 25 fewer runs,” Bangar said.
India did not take the new ball even after it was due late in the day and Bangar said it was because the ball was reversing.
“You must have noticed reverse swing was still on offer at that point of time. Shami was available then. Umesh Yadav had put in a valiant effort when Shami was not available before and after tea for a particular amount of time.
“Umesh ran in well and gave us that breakthrough. He was very impressive – getting the ball to reverse both ways and so was Shami. Wicket taking possibility with the old ball was much higher at that point of time,” he said.
Shami left the field after bowling one ball in his second spell only to return later, and Bangar attributed his absence to cramps.
“The physiotherapist told us it was muscular cramps. He took an ice bath. He was fine to bowl after that. But he’s being monitored closely. Apart from cramps I don’t think there’s much to it. Hopefully he will be fresher and fitter tomorrow and ready to bowl in the first session,” the bowling coach said.
Bangar also defended the decision to under bowl leg-spinner Amit Mishra even as Ashwin was utilised for 31 overs.
“Generally when you are playing five bowlers on a particular day like here and with obviously Ashwin being our no 1 spinner he ended up bowling more than 25 overs. And with freshness with the new ball seamers also had a role to play, it eventually means one of the spinners might get fewer overs and that was the case with Amit Mishra today,” he said.
Mishra bowled eight overs in his first spell and two more in his second without looking dangerous.