India survived a scare before managing to draw the first cricket Test against England, who gained the psychological advantage after enjoying the upper-hand for the better part of the five days here.
Set a near impossible target of 310 in a minimum 49 overs, India managed to reach 172 for six in 52.3 overs and were never really in the hunt.
Skipper Virat Kohli showed patience as he consumed 98 balls for his unbeaten 49 that had six boundaries and Ravindra Jadeja (32 not out) also hit some lusty blows after the sixth wicket had fallen at 132.
Earlier, Alastair Cook scored his 30th Test century with England declaring at 260 for 3 in the second innings.
On a fifth day pitch that didn't show considerable signs of wear and tear, the Indian spinners barring a brief spell by Amit Mishra (2/60 in 13 overs), were rendered ineffective by Captain Cook, who batted for nearly five hours to hit 13 fours in 243 balls.
The first Test once again raised serious questions about the ability of the Indian spinners to bowl on pitches that aren't exactly rank turners.
Ashwin, India's premier strike bowler, in all bowled 69.3 overs across two innings getting only 3 wickets giving away 230 runs.
Ravindra Jadeja got 3 wickets in 47 overs in the match while Mishra also had 3 scalps to this credit having bowled 36.3 overs but not before giving away as many as 158 runs.The other worrying aspect will be veteran opener Gautam Gambhir's form and technical deficiencies that were again exposed in front of some quality seam bowling.
It was a match where England's spinners especially leg-spinner Adil Rashid (3/64 and 7 wickets in the match) looked much menacing extracting turn from a fifth day pitch.
It won't be a happy sight for Indian team management that England spin trio of Rashid, Zafar Ansari and Moeen Ali got 13 wickets in all compared to Indian toika which got 9 wickets.
Although the hosts suffered some more pangs of anxiety at the fall of Ashwin, who got carried away and got out, and wicket keeper Wriddhiman Saha (9), Kohli kept calm and guided the team through the choppy waters.Kohli, who saw batsmen departing at the other end, then piloted India to safety in the company of Jadeja who faced 33 balls as the seventh wicket pair batted out the remaining time, as England bowled 3.3 overs extra before deciding to call it a draw.
Earlier, Cook had produced yet another master class of batting to notch up his 30th Test hundred, his sixth against India, before declaring the team's second innings 309 in front, 36 minutes into the second session on the final day.
Cook, playing in his 136th Test, was level with West Indians Everton Weekes and Clive Lloyd and South African Hashim Amla with four centuries in India when the series commenced and went past the trio on Sunday. In all, the visiting team skipper had batted for nearly five hours and faced 243 balls. Chasing the improbable target India advanced to 49 for two at tea, needing 261 more runs to get in a minimum 31 overs in the last session of the Test with Vijay and Kohli were holding the fort.
We know how to draw Tests: Kohli
India skipper Virat Kohli on Sunday said the critics now can not question his team's ability to force a draw from tough situations as he dug his heels and led the side to a draw in the series-opener, here on Sunday.
Kohli played a fighting unbeaten 49-run knock and together with Ravindra Jadeja (32) ensured that the team come out unscathed. "Well, at least we know how to draw games now. Before that, some people obviously were skeptical about our side knowing how to draw games. We won games or we lost games," the captain said.
"I spoke with Ravindra Jadeja out there that it was an opportunity for both of us to improve on another aspect of the game. Maybe in Test cricket in the future, we will have this situation again. Maybe we will have to apply ourselves again and show character, show intent to get runs in between, but play percentage cricket, figuring out areas where you want to take ones or hit boundaries but at the same time be sure of your defense as well. It was a challenging situation but one that we counted really well," Kohli said.
The Indian captain though made it clear that he was surprised to see the tinge of green on the track. "I was quite surprised to see that much grass, to be honest. It should not have been the case." Kohli though said the track was not as unplayable and did not hold demons as it looked from outside with the fall of quick Indian wickets.
"We saw from day 3 onwards, the last hour, the ball did quite a bit for the spinners. That stayed consistent on days 3, 4 and 5. I don t think it was similar throughout the day. The odd ball bounced in between and you had to pitch the ball in the right areas as spinners to get purchase from day 3 onwards. The first two days were really good to bat on.
"Day 3 onwards, it slowed down a little bit but no demons as such. Sometimes, the situation becomes such that even on flat wickets, you tend to make mistakes. It looks that it is doing a lot more than it is actually out there. Someone who is out there will understand how much the ball was doing because I spent decent time out there and it is because we lost four-five wickets that it looks like it s going to rip through from a good-length area," he explained.
It was a fair declaration, says Cook
Having come close to taking a 1-0 lead in the five-match series, England captain Alastair Cook expressed his disappointment with the the draw in the opening Test but defended his decision of declaring only after lunch on day five.
"It s been a good five days, a hard five days. Not quite as humid as Bangladesh, but a tough Test match, put everything on the line. Four hundreds (from his side), spinners bowled well, seamers were outstanding on a slow wicket. We got into a position to try to force a result. Disappointing we didn t quite get over the line. Good Test and everyone should be proud with the way we played," said Cook who notched up his 30th Test hundred to set India an improbable target to chase.
"We proved to everyone else that we can play. I said at the beginning of this tour we have some very talented players.