England reduced India to 122 for six on the first afternoon of the fourth LV= Insurance Test, with the returning Chris Woakes leading the way alongside Ollie Robinson. Woakes, back in the side after a year blighted by Covid complications and injury, needed just six deliveries to put his frustrations behind him with the wicket of Rohit Sharma and returned to see off Ravindra Jadeja in a fine spell after lunch.
He also had Virat Kohli dropped in the slips as he reminded England what they have been missing, leaving Robinson to pick up the India captain for the third time in the series. Kohli had made a determined, dynamic 50 but was once again unable to produce a match-defining knock before nicking off.
England had chosen to send the tourists in, with Joe Root persuaded by clouds overhead and a tinge of green underfoot. Doubts may have started to creep in during a sedate first half-hour, with James Anderson unable to generate his usual menace despite getting the fresh Duke’s ball swinging handily. He was pulled from the attack after conceding 20 from his first four overs, allowing Woakes an early look at the Indian openers.
After 11 matches and 12 months of waiting he was instantly on point, foxing Rohit with one that hooped away from his attempted cover drive and then thumping the shoulder of the bat after getting one to kick off the pitch. Jonny Bairstow, donning the gloves again in Jos Buttler’s absence, did the rest as Woakes enjoyed a long-awaited celebration. Having made the breakthrough on 28, England kept India locked on that score for seven overs as Woakes and Robinson stitched together a long sequence of 42 dot balls.
Each one-upped the pressure and Robinson cashed it in when he pushed his natural length a fraction fuller and nipped it back into Rahul’s front pad. A close lbw call went in the bowler’s favor, full and fair reward for a wonderful spell of 8-6-8-1. Anderson returned with the express intention of reopening his decade-long battle with Kohli but instead had to content himself with the scalp of Cheteshwar Pujara. He managed a solitary scoring shot in 31 deliveries and there was an air of inevitability when he was caught behind to one that nipped off the seam.
India resumed on 54 for three at lunch, with Kohli getting started in the afternoon with a sweet cover drive for four to reach 22. That was almost his last act, with Woakes finding the edge only for a misunderstanding between Rory Burns and Root in the cordon to offer him a reprieve. With Woakes nagging away at the Pavilion End, Root soon had the chance to make amends and he held on to Ravindra Jadeja at ankle height. The all-rounder had surprisingly been promoted to number five, but a nervy 10 hardly represented a success.
Woakes’ first over in more than a year after replacing Sam Curran bagged Sharma on 11. Sharma fended and gave an edge behind Jonny Bairstow, who was wicketkeeping for the first time since 2019 while Jos Buttler was by the side of his wife, who is due to give birth. Rahul was then out for 17, rapped on his back pad by Robinson. Kohli ended the scoring drought and got off the mark with a boundary through mid-on-off Anderson, whose second spell earned him the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara. Pujara was looking to block but edged behind after scoring 4.
Kohli was beginning to impress now, rediscovering his strut in the middle and unfurling a handful of crisp blows through cover and point. He also encouraged Ajinkya Rahane to overturn an lbw verdict against Woakes but shortly after raising his bat for a half-century, he was on his way back. After watching Robinson hang a handful of deliveries outside off stump, he was tempted in by a tighter line and edged through to Bairstow as he aimed for mid-wicket. Rahane was close behind, a thoroughly timid inning of 14 endings when he fenced Craig Overton to gully where new vice-captain Moeen Ali took a diving catch.