England is driven by Crawley’s fifty, but Kuldeep’s punches hold them back.

In an eventful first morning of the fifth Test between India and England in Dharamsala, which started with a lot of pageantry involving two players playing their 100th Test and another – Devdutt Padikkal – making their debut, the main talking points on the pitch were a typically fluent unbeaten fifty from Zak Crawley and Kuldeep Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah’s probing spells.

Ben Stokes went one step further and chose to bat at the toss, eschewing the temptation to play an additional seamer despite the venue’s seam-friendly past. The England captain had to watch from the dressing room as Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj, India’s new-ball combination, got everyone talking both on and off the pitch after making the decision. England’s openers handled the first hour of play with a combination of willpower, daring, and good fortune, despite the movement being more spectacular and off-the-charts.

Bumrah and Siraj frequently gave both batsmen the upper hand when hitting the outside edge, but the nick remained elusive for India. Although the scoring pace wasn’t typical for Bazball, runs continued to come in at a reasonable pace. Duckett, who was apprehensive at first, began to show his skill with some subtle strokes, but the visitors’ attempt to challenge Kuldeep in the wrist-spinner’s opening over was thwarted. Following a magnificent back foot punch past mid-on and a backfoot cut that went for four off a misfield, Duckett attempted a reckless slog across the line but sliced it over extra cover.

Shubman Gill rolled forward after covering excellent ground to receive a nice catch over his shoulder. After their opening pair’s seventh fifty-plus stand of the series, England were just beginning to take control of the session, so India’s breakthrough came at a perfect time.

Duckett’s ejection didn’t stop Crawley, who appeared compact against spin and pace right away. He made good use of his reach, dishing out some beautiful drives through the off-side. Crawley even lofted Ashwin for a massive six, showing no fear in using his feet. While this was going on, Ollie Pope appeared restless during his brief time at the crease and ended his life just before lunchtime. He wandered down the pitch to a Kuldeep googly that he chose not to take, which allowed Dhruv Jurel to complete the simplest of stumpings.

Although Crawley’s half-century in his 14th Test match had put England ahead, the late strike in the session levelled the scores. Strange as it may sound for a pitch meant to help seamers, Ashwin and Kuldeep both succeeded in making the English hitters second-guess their abilities, with the wrist spinner emerging as the best.

In brief, England defeated India 100/2 (Zak Crawley 61*; Kuldeep Yadav 2-22).

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