The England batsmen put up a better display in Ahmedabad than they had managed previously, but still ended the day in a troubled position, after India reached 24/1, a deficit of 181, by stumps on day one.
Axar Patel once again had the better of England, returning a fine 4/68 after the visitors had opted to bat. However, England managed to cross 200 for the first time in the series after the first Test thanks to attacking knocks from Ben Stokes (55) and Dan Lawrence (46).
The pitch wasn’t as much of a turner as it was during the third Test, with even the seamers finding something in it early on. Batting seemed easier, although as the day progressed, the pitch did offer some turn.
England, despite opting to bat, had a troubled start, reduced to 30/3 with all of Zak Crawley, Dom Sibley, and captain Root back in the hut for single-digit scores. Axar had both the openers dismissed in consecutive overs, first cleaning up Sibley with an inside-edge, and then reaping the rewards when Crawley looked to attack him and miscued.
When Root, the lynchpin of their batting, was then trapped in front with a sharp incoming delivery from Mohammed Siraj, who had replaced Jasprit Bumrah in the side, England were in trouble. It was then that Stokes too charge.
He first put on a 48-run stand with Jonny Bairstow, who had survived a nervy phase initially, to revive the innings, and then added a further 43 with Ollie Pope. The partnerships helped England cross the 100-run mark, but losing Stokes midway through the second session was a blow. Stokes had taken the attack to the spinners on his way to 55, slamming two sixes en route, but he was undone by a Washington Sundar arm ball.
England did well to ensure the wicket didn’t trigger a collapse. Lawrence partnered Pope to take the side through to Tea, and then extended the partnership on resumption, putting on 45 off 15 dogged overs. Lawrence, following the Stokes mantra, took the attack to the spinners as well, even as wickets fell at the other end.
Pope’s defence was breached by Ashwin for 29, and that triggered an implosion that undid England’s good work till that point. The visitors lost five wickets for just 39 runs to be bowled out for 205, with Jimmy Anderson the last man standing at 10*.
In the 12 overs that remained in the day, India lost one big wicket – Anderson had opener Shubman Gill trapped in front for nought – but Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma assiduously batted through the remaining overs, ensuring the wickets remained intact going into stumps.
The first hour of the second morning will be crucial.