Shoaib Bashir takes two wickets on debut as England dig deep against India

By Sports Desk February 02, 2024

England debutant Shoaib Bashir enjoyed a memorable start to his Test career as he vied for centre stage with India’s next big thing, Yashasvi Jaiswal, on day one in Visakhapatnam.

Bashir was fast-tracked into the England side on the back of just six first-class appearances and began repaying that faith when he grabbed the big wicket of home captain Rohit Sharma in his fourth over.

His exuberant, fist-clenching celebration was a wonderful moment for the 20-year-old off-spinner, who grabbed a second late on when Axar Patel chopped to point, and may even have made up for the visa complications that added 10,000 air miles to his trip and delayed his arrival on tour.

Bashir was trusted to bowl more overs than anyone else and finished with two for 100 in 28 overs as India ran up 336 for six on a good batting pitch. Teenage leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed added two of his own in the evening session, this second Test may hinge on the efforts of rising star Jaiswal.

He made a dashing 179 not out, carrying his bat from first ball to last in an exemplary knock. The 22-year-old, who made his name in the Indian Premier League and looks primed to inherit Virat Kohli’s mantle as the country’s next cricketing icon, never allowed England’s bowlers to breathe easily. Punishing any errors in line or length with bursts of controlled aggression. He hit 17 fours and five sixes, including a towering blow to reach his hundred.

On a pitch that is expected to break up and take sharper turn as the game progresses, England’s task looks a tricky one as they seek to build on the high of victory in Hyderabad.

Ben Foakes, meanwhile, reiterated his value behind the stumps with a pair of smart catches. The first, to see off Shubman Gill just before lunch, saw him dive in front of slip to make the ball his own, but the second was even better. He needed razor sharp reflexes and soft hands to cling on to Shreyas Iyer’s under-edge, with Tom Hartley the beneficiary.

James Anderson, replacing Mark Wood as the solitary seamer, gave up just six runs from his initial five-over spell but England were soon relying on spin at both ends. Joe Root shared the new ball, a gambit aimed at unsettling Jaiswal, but gave way to Bashir as Ben Stokes got his latest newcomer into the game early.

Despite having only 10 first-class wickets to his name, the Somerset prospect started confidently and settled into a steady groove. Sharma had been unusually quiet, grinding out 14 from 41 balls, but when he flicked Bashir round the corner to Pope it was a major first scalp for the youngster.

With Jaiswal putting away anything loose, India were still able to get the best of the first session and it felt a surprise when Anderson returned to take Gill’s outside edge 10 minutes before the break.

Jaiswal resumed on 51 and dialled up the intensity in the afternoon, lifting Root for six over extra-cover with an effortless back-foot drive. Hartley, coming back to earth after his match-winning seven-wicket haul last time out, overpitched a handful of times and was punished repeatedly by the opener.

It was Jaiswal who hit Hartley’s first ball in Test cricket for six and he took the Lancastrian on again here, driving emphatically and giving the fielders no chance to intercept.

He had one scare on 73, Root getting finger tips to a thick edge off Hartley, but moved fluently towards his hundred before reaching three figures with a handsome blow that went all the way over the ropes.

Foakes’ instincts nabbed England a wicket that could easily have gone begging, Iyer cutting a ball that shot through low and and nicking off the bottom edge. It was looking like a long final session at tea, with the score at 225 for three, and Jaiswal did his best to sap Ahmed’s enthusiasm when he clattered the teenage leg-spinner for six.

But Ahmed did not shirk the contest, attacking the stumps until he forced a mistake from debutant Rajat Patidar. Pressing forward in defence he ran it off the face of his bat and watched on as it spun back and unsettled a bail.

England looked like they would settle for four wickets but there was a bonus scalp for Bashir, who finished the day as he had started it, in celebration. It was something of a gift, picking out Ahmed with an uncontrolled cut, but it was Bashir’s height and bounce that made the stroke dangerous.

Srikar Bharat fell in similar style but this time the roles were reversed, Ahmed with the ball and Bashir adding a first to catch to his day’s achievements.

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