ime travel jokes are banned here at Edgbaston, too obvious given the context of this delayed Fifth Test of last summer’s series.
But looking out of the Tardis window and watching the ball fly to all corners during England’s ragged morning session, then witnessing their batting collapse – albeit in instalments, as dictated by delays for rain – only the Birmingham skyline in the distance reminded you that this was not Lord’s in August 2021.
Here, as then, England got their tactics badly wrong against an Indian tail that wagged its way to a first innings total of 416, having at one stage yesterday been 98 for five before Rishabh Pant’s wonderful counter-attacking century dragged the tourists into the ascendancy.
In response, England never got going, never really had the chance to, as the showers came and went, and batters did likewise. The first 27 overs of their reply were across four mini sessions, a top order wicket falling in each of them, the first three to the brilliant Jasprit Bumrah and then, most damagingly, that of Joe Root to Mohammed Siraj in the final half-hour of the day as the hosts reached stumps 84 for five, still 332 behind.
Ravi Jadeja, who shared a sixth-wicket partnership of 222 with Pant on Friday, began the day by joining him in reaching three figures during a mad first hour in which Stuart Broad bowled the most expensive over in Test history and took his 550th wicket, while James Anderson quietly notched the 32nd five-for of his Test career, weeks shy of his 40th birthday.
In the Second Test of this series, at Lord’s 11 months ago, England had India eight down and just 182 runs ahead on the final morning, only to resort to a short-pitched barrage that failed to test the technique of Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, two tailenders without any. The Indian No9 and No10, averaging spit between them, shared an unbroken partnership of 89 before Virat Kohli was, remarkably, able to declare and set up victory, the home side having been suckered into a bad-tempered reprisal mission after Bumrah’s bumper assault on Anderson the day before.
Here, they did not even have that excuse, but spread the field and made little attempt to dismiss Jadeja – who got himself out bowled trying to heave Anderson – and again had little joy bouncing messers Shami and Bumrah.
The former added 16 to set the tone, while Bumrah then faced a Broad over that summed it all up, costing 35 runs, including five wides, a no-ball hit for six, five more boundaries off the bat and a near run-out. Beyond their two centurions, India’s next top scorer had been extras, with 40.
Bumrah spent the first day of his stand-in captaincy – the first of any Indian fast bowler in the role – with his feet up, but made the second his own, bowling Alex Lees for six with the last ball before an early lunch, then having Zak Crawley caught, predictably, at slip with his first delivery after it. Root just about survived Bumrah’s hat-trick ball, which whistled past the edge, but Ollie Pope later became his third victim.
Crawley’s failure outside off-stump was familiar and by far the most troubling. On the eve of this Test, Ben Stokes said that the opener would remain in England’s plans “regardless” of his performance here but only a second innings score will avoid that faith being put to the test in a big way. England’s next Test, against South Africa, is more than six weeks away, time perhaps for Crawley to find form, but that is not really how he got here, his initial fast-tracking into the side and recall midway through the Ashes based on potential, talent and style, not weight of county runs.
His departure for nine marked a 20th single-figure Test score since that 267 against Pakistan almost two years ago, the 24-year-old averaging just 18 across the same period. A replacement is surely required in the short-term at least, if only England can find one.
The worst of the day’s showers brought the longest of its delays, 30 minutes of which could probably have been avoided. With an hour to bat and the sun finally shining, it was not quite the proverbial tricky evening session but as Bumrah and Shami probed, still fresh after all the stoppages, England would have done well to survive it.
When Root was caught behind trying to cut a ball too close to him, the new England took perhaps their first backwards step, Stokes sending in Leach in as nightwatchman with instructions to block and time waste his way through the 25 minutes left in the day. Even that did not quite come off, the spinner edging through to Pant to give Shami a deserved wicket.