Keaton Jennings impressed on his debut for England with a century but off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin brought India back with a late three-wicket burst on the opening day of the fourth cricket Test in Mumbai on Thursday.
England were going strong by taking tea at 196 for two but India reduced the visitors to 288 for five at stumps as Ashwin removed Moeen Ali (50) and Jennings (112) in space of three balls and later got rid of Jonny Bairstow (14).
Ben Stokes (25) and Jos Buttler (18) were the unbeaten batsmen at close after an unfinished stand of 39 on a track that would be difficult to negotiate with passage of time.
Post-tea, Ashwin made the ball talk by extracting turn and bounce from the Wankhede Stadium track and ended with figures of four for 75. England skipper Alastair Cook (46) was dismissed by left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja (1/60) in the opening session.
Other Indian bowlers - medium pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav and third spinner Jayant Yadav ended the day wicket-less after bowling a combined 43 overs.
The tourists are 0-2 down in the series and need to win this game to keep it alive for the fifth and final Test, scheduled in Chennai from December 16.
Jennings, born in Johannesburg, showed no nerves as he became the 19th batsman from England to make a century on debut against India. It was also the fifth time that a batsman achieved the feat against the hosts since 2010.
Jennings, who had come in as replacement for the injured teenaged batsman Haseeb Hameed after the third game, took full advantage of two close shaves early on, including a dropped catch when he had not even opened his account.
He added 99 runs for the first wicket with captain Cook, 37 for the second with Root and 94 for the third with Ali.
Joe Root was sent back by Ashwin through a smart catch at slip by home team captain Virat Kohli after Cook had been stumped by Parthiv Patel off Jadeja.
The tourists looked well-poised for a big score at the end of session two when Ashwin, who bowled far better after switching ends, clipped the high-flying England’s wings by packing off Ali.
Ali top-edged a sweep and was caught at mid-wicket soon after completing his half-century in 104 balls. Two balls later, Jennings, son of renowned coach Ray, was caught brilliantly by a diving Cheteshwar Pujara at gully.
Jennings had played some audacious reverse sweeps too, including when on the cusp of his landmark, to reach the hundred in 186 balls and laced with 12 fours.
More trouble followed for England when Bairstow, stonewalling with Stokes, was tempted into playing a sweep and top-edged to long leg as the visitors slumped to 249 for five.
It left the sixth wicket pair of Stokes and Buttler to do the resurrection job till close of play.
After England had raced to 117 for one at lunch the Indian bowlers, especially Ashwin, kept the England batsmen in a tight leash and also effected breakthroughs.
Ashwin, changing ends, bowled a fine 11-over second spell for 21 by extracting turn and bounce and also got rid of danger-man Root as the batsman edged a ball and Kohli moved to his left to pick up the low catch.
The off-spinner then moved past Javagal Srinath in the list of Indian wicket takers by adding the scalps of Ali, Jennings and Bairstow in his highly impressive third spell. Ashwin now has 239 wickets, three more than Srinath.
Jadeja kept it tight at the other end in an eight-over spell on either side of lunch that also gave India the breakthrough before the break when Cook had a rush of blood and came out to slog him and was stumped.
However, Jayant Yadav was hit for two fours by the grown-in-confidence Jennings to prompt Kohli to bring on medium pace at the other end.
Just before the end of the third hour’s play umpire Paul Reiffel, standing at square leg, had to leave the field due to a freak injury as he was hit on the back of the head by a lobbed throw from deep square leg by Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
The incident happened in the 49th over and third umpire Marias Erasmus took over Reiffel’s duties, while C Shamsuddin took over the latter’s position indoors.
India had a chance to dismiss Moeen when he slashed at Umesh Yadav but the chance could not be converted by a diving Kohli at second slip. The batsman was on 13 then.
Jennings kept his cool and reached his hundred by reverse sweeping Jayant for a four.
In the morning session, captain Cook and Jennings put on a near-century stand. Cook after looking comfortable in his stay, suddenly stepped out and was stumped off Jadeja.
Jennings, who had forced his way into the squad on the strength of scoring over 1500 runs in domestic cricket, was lucky on two occasions within the first half hour.
On the first occasion he fended at a short ball from Umesh but the gully fielder Karun Nair could not latched on to it despite a leap. The batsman was yet to open his account.
Later in the seventh over, the South Africa-born opener was rapped on his front pad by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, but umpire Reiffel did not uphold the appeal. The decision was reviewed and the batsman escaped.
Slowly growing in confidence, he struck the same bowler for two fours in successive balls. Cook, on the other end, played cautiously and took singles with nudges while hitting fours off a few loose balls.
Ashwin had Cook in trouble in his last over before lunch, but Cheteshwar Pujara was not alert enough at short leg to catch him when the batsman was on 39.
Luckily for the home team the miss did not prove too costly as Jadeja replaced Ashwin and got rid of Cook.
India made two changes to their playing eleven, by including Bhuvneshwar and KL Rahul into the playing eleven. England also made two changes, handing debut to Jennings and including rookie Jake Ball as the fourth paceman.