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India's Thakur glad to make an 'impact' with record-breaking fifty

India's Thakur glad to make an 'impact' with record-breaking fifty

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Shardul Thakur lived up to his desire to make an "impact" with the bat after a record-breaking fifty revived India on the first day of the fourth Test against England at the Oval on Thursday.

Following yet another collapse, India were in dire straits at 127-7 after losing the toss in overcast conditions that favoured England's quicks.

But No 8 Thakur responded with seven fours and three sixes in a superb innings of 57, hitting the fastest Test half-century in England in terms of balls faced.

His 31-ball fifty was one fewer than England great Ian Botham managed at the Oval, against New Zealand, in 1986 and one more than India hero Kapil Dev, another celebrated all-rounder, had managed against arch-rivals Pakistan at Karachi in 1982.

Thanks to Thakur, India recovered to 191 all out before they reduced England to 53-3 at stumps, with Jasprit Bumrah removing both openers in the same over before the recalled Umesh Yadav dismissed home captain Joe Root for 21.

The world's top-ranked batsman Root had made hundreds in the first three matches of a five-Test series locked at 1-1.

What made all-rounder Thakur's innings especially impressive was that he had not played any competitive cricket since suffering a hamstring injury during the drawn first Test at Trent Bridge.

"Whenever you get the opportunity you have to take the responsibility by hook or crook," the 29-year-old Thakur, playing just his fourth Test, told reporters.

"I always see it as a challenge that whenever I get my batting I have do something to create an impact.

"Our batting coach and our throwdown experts kept giving me the confidence that I can score runs so on this day I had to deliver."

Thakur has been nicknamed 'Beefy' -- a tag given to Botham -- as well as 'Bull' and even 'Lord'.

"Only two of those are my nicknames. Lord is just a meme, started on social media," said the unassuming Thakur. "But, yeah, I'm pretty happy I am getting so much love from my team-mates."

Thakur was not the only all-rounder who enjoyed a successful return to the Test arena on Thursday, with rival paceman Chris Woakes leading England's attack thanks to a return of 4-55 in 15 overs.

- 'Long time coming' -

Woakes dismissed Rohit Sharma with just his sixth ball in what was his first Test since August 2020 before taking the wickets of Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant and Thakur, while the Warwickshire favourite also had India captain Virat Kohli dropped off his bowling.

In the 372 days since the 32-year-old Woakes last took a Test wicket he had been kept out of the England side by an extraordinary combination of circumstances that included Covid protocols, unexpected selection decisions, a mandatory rest period after the Indian Premier League and, most recently, a freak heel injury suffered when walking down the stairs.

"I've loved it. It felt like it's been quite a long time coming," said a smiling Woakes.

"I've been in Test squads throughout the winter and didn't get the nod; I've been caught up in a few isolation incidents to do with Covid and then obviously this summer I picked up a niggle.

"So it has been a bit up and down but it was well worth the wait and to get out there today and be back bowling for England... I really enjoyed it.

"Don't get me wrong, it's probably going to be a bit sore in the morning but it's good to have those pains and those bowling aches back."