England were given a sharp reality check on the opening day of their Test series in India, spun out for 246 in Hyderabad before a bruising introduction for debutant Tom Hartley.
India have lost just three times in their last 46 games on home soil and were quick to offer a reminder of the task that faces England’s Bazball brigade over the next seven weeks.
England captain Ben Stokes, who was on crutches after knee surgery in November, struck a vital 70 to give his side a fighting chance in their first innings but on a predictably helpful surface eight of his team-mates fell to spinners Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel.
England, who were dismissed for less than 200 six times in eight attempts on their last visit in 2021, had loaded their own attack with three slow bowlers of their own but they were unable to replicate the same threat as India made 119 for one in reply.
Mail Sport’s Paul Newman and Richard Gibson pick out some of the things you may have missed on the first day.
Ben Stokes was involved again when England were awarded five runs in the first Test
Stokes in overthrow controversy
Of course it was Ben Stokes at the crease when England were awarded five runs in an echo of the controversial overthrow incident in the 2019 World Cup final.
Following the inadvertent deflection off Stokes’ bat that scuttled the ball to the boundary during a dramatic finale against New Zealand, Eoin Morgan’s team erroneously had the second run they were attempting plus four added to their total.
The same thing happened when Rehan Ahmed dug one out into the leg side and Mohammad Siraj’s wild return from the deep evaded his team-mates, only for TV umpire Marais Erasmus to intervene, downgrading them to a five.
Law 19.8 states that runs awarded from an overthrow from a fielder will be those ‘completed by the batters, together with the run in progress, if they had already crossed at the instance of the throw.’
Replays of the incident clearly showed that Ahmed and Stokes had yet to do so when the ball left Siraj’s hand.
‘On such little things are World Cups decided,’ Harsha Bhogle quipped to fellow commentator Morgan, who just happened to be sitting alongside him at the time.
Stokes was involved in an incident similar to the famous one in the 2019 World Cup final
Fans feel full force of heavy-handed police
India invariably make it as difficult and unpleasant as possible for paying spectators to watch cricket live at grounds and Hyderabad appeared to be no exception.
The local police chief staged a press conference pre-match during which he answered almost as many questions as Rohit Sharma and gave the distinct impression he would not be averse to using a heavy hand.
Among the items banned included bottled water, binoculars and cameras while spectators were urged not to risk taking anything into the ground they did not want to be confiscated.
India invariably make it as difficult and unpleasant as possible for paying spectators to watch cricket live
There was also a warning that there would be no re-admissions for anyone leaving the ground during play.
Tour operator Derek Myers, who brought 34 England fans to Hyderabad, told Mail Sport: ‘They have made all the Brits sit in the sun and then confiscated our water and sun block. You can only get water from big containers so we will just have to bring cups with us tomorrow. I know it’s India and you expect these things but it’s not good enough.’
Those supporters may have further reason to gripe on Friday – a national holiday upon which the sale of alcohol is prohibited.
Atherton caps it for Hartley
Mike Atherton was recruited from the press box, where he is covering this tour for The Times, to present a Test cap to England debutant and fellow Lancastrian Tom Hartley.
As ever Athers found the right words for the occasion and told Hartley: ‘The Lancastrians in the England squad have taken 690 Test wickets between them.’ (Not dwelling on the fact all 690 belong to Jimmy Anderson!)
‘Now you go out there and add to the tally.’
Tom Hartley was presented with England Test cap by Mike Atherton before the first Test
Bess back on track
Dom Bess played a significant role in the first Test the last time England began a series in India, taking five for 126 as the tourists took a 1-0 lead in Chennai.
However, the 26-year-old Yorkshire off-spinner has not played international cricket since going wicketless in the final match of that 3-1 loss in 2020-21, and made 38 batting at number three for Zimbabwean team Southern Rocks, having committed to getting his career back on track by playing first-class rather than Twenty20 cricket abroad this winter.
New chef makes big impression
There was another England debutant in the form of David Pyle, the chef who will prepare all the players’ food throughout the two-month stay in India.
Pyle, who has worked in football for Liverpool and the FA, has made a big impression on the England team and served up both their breakfast and lunch at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium before returning to the team hotel to make dinner.
The idea is for all tastes to be catered for, with Pyle providing a mixture of eastern dishes combined with a few home comforts for the likes of plain food loving Mark Wood.
His breakfast ham and cheese omelette served in a brioche bun has been a particular favourite with the coaches while Pyle provided a full carvery, including Yorkshire puddings, on the first night in Hyderabad.
England’s new chef David Pyle has made a big impression on the team on the tour of India
Lack of pundits for first Test
Back in the UK, however, there was a distinct lack of punditry from TNT Sports at the start of the series.
Oddly, rather than have former players discussing talking points from the day’s action, TNT used broadcaster Matt Floyd talking over highlights during the breaks for lunch and tea.
TNT – formerly BT Sport – only won the rights for the five matches plus England’s tours of India in 2025 and 2028 last week, leaving them little time to set things up for the Hyderabad opener.
However, it is understood things will be in place for more conventional coverage from the second Test in Visakhapatnam on February 2 when Sir Alastair Cook and Steven Finn will join Kate Mason in the studio in London.