Birmingham: Rishabh Pant played a knock for the ages to turn the tables on England and take India to an imposing 338 for seven on a rain-hit day one of the rescheduled fifth Test here on Friday.
At 98 for five, India were staring down the barrel but Pant (146 off 111 balls) scripted a remarkable turnaround in the company of Ravindra Jadeja (83 batting off 163) as the duo shared a match changing 222-run stand off 239 balls.
Pant, who rendered the England bowlers helpless, hammered 20 boundaries and four sixes, in his awe-inspiring effort.
The rain in the morning meant only 73 overs could be bowled on the opening day.
Having faced criticism for his struggles in white-ball cricket recently, Pant continued his love affair with the red-ball format by smashing his fifth century overall and fourth in overseas conditions.
The conditions and match situation was against him but he once again thrived on it to leave the opposition frustrated. As only he could, he danced down the track against the great James Anderson, reverse scooped him but also played conventional strokes, including the straight drives and back foot punches, enroute to the fastest hundred (89 balls) by an Indian wicketkeeper.
In the nervous 90s, he fell on the ground while going aerial over Jack Leach but that still fetched him a four before reaching three figures in the following over.
Stokes fancied Leach’s chances against Pant but the ploy failed miserably as the southpaw collected boundaries off the left-arm spinner at will. Leach ended up with day’s figures of 0/71 in nine overs. Pant went ballistic in what happened to be Leach’s last over of the day, clobbering him two sixes and as many fours.
With a couple of hundreds in England, one each in Australia and South Africa, Pant has already walked into the list of the finest wicketkeeper-batters to have come out of India.
The 24-year-old’s epic innings came to an end towards close of play with part-timer Joe Root providing the much needed breakthrough.
Jadeja, who enjoyed Pant’s audacious stroke from the other end, also played a major role in India’s remarkable recovery and produced some delightful drives on the way. After overs were lost in the first two sessions due to rain, the evening session was played in bright sunshine.
Pant and Jadeja’s counter-attacking partnership had helped India recover to 174 for five at tea after the visitors lost half their side shortly after lunch. Rain delayed the start of the second session by an hour and England were all over India soon after play resumed.
While Anderson did the damage in the morning, Matthew Potts got the prized wicket of an out of form Virat Kohli (11) and a shaky Hanuma Vihari (20) post lunch to put England on top. Vihari was the first to go after Potts trapped him in front of the stumps with a full ball that darted back sharply.
In his following over, Potts sent back Kohli, who dragged one on to his stumps in his half-hearted attempt to leave the ball. Shreyas Iyer (15 off 11 balls), playing his first Test outside India, started on an aggressive note by collecting three fours off Potts.
However, Anderson and the support staff had done their homework on Iyer, who has had issues against the short ball.
The 39-year-old pacer angled one around the rib cage area that induced a faint edge on way to Sam Billings, who took a brilliant one handed catch diving full-stretched to his left.
India looked down and out at that stage and fresh lease of life was infused in the innings by the two southpaws, Pant and Jadeja.
Pant made his intent loud and clear by advancing and smashing Anderson down the ground. Jadeja too played his strokes with the highlight being the straight drive and cover drive off Broad.
Earlier, England’s most decorated pacer Anderson produced probing spells in the rain-hit morning session to reduce India to 53 for two. Rain forced the lunch break 20 minutes before time.
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 advantage after Stokes opted to ‘chase’ at Edgbaston.
India could have been three down had Crawley held on to a tough chance presented by Vihari off Matthew Potts.