Jasprit Bumrah's expression immediately after Alastair Cook played on in the fifth over of the third session was revelatory. It was a ball that Bumrah did not fancy taking a wicket with. A regulation delivery outside off stump that Cook could have safely left alone. But he poked and inside-edged onto his stumps.
Bumrah flicked both his hands and broke into a wry smile. He, along with Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami, had persevered through the first two sessions, beaten the bat frequently, and even found the edge a few times, but the wickets column for all three bowlers had remained empty. Now, just like that, he had got a wicket off a not particularly threatening delivery.
The onus was on always on the fast bowlers to create pressure, especially in the absence of R Ashwin, who Kohli declared at the toss had aggravated his hip injury during the Southampton Test last week. Ravindra Jadeja, playing his first overseas Test since last August, stuck to his strengths - bowling flat and fast and playing the holding role. Although Jadeja had managed to distract Keaton Jennings into playing a false stroke before lunch, he did not pose too much of a challenge to Cook and Moeen Ali post the break.
Conditions didn't really favour India's fast bowlers after England won the toss and The Oval dressed up for Cook's farewell Test. There was no real movement in the air or off the pitch with the new ball. Bumrah and Ishant erred with their lengths slightly to begin with, allowing Cook and Keaton Jennings to settle. Before lunch, India's quicks bowled 63 balls on a good length and 44 short of a good length, and only 18 full.
The fast bowlers came out with recalibrated radars in the second session, bowling noticeably fuller between lunch and tea: 65 balls on a good length and 29 full, but only 29 short of a good length.
All three sustained pressure on Cook and Moeen, and both batsmen enjoyed lives early in the session. Ajinkya Rahane put Cook down at gully when he was on 37, and Virat Kohli shelled Moeen at third slip in the next over, when he was on 2.
Ishant and Bumrah were the unfortunate bowlers, but Shami was the most consistent threat through the session. In a nine-over spell between lunch and tea, he kept drawing Cook and Moeen into playing at balls in a tight channel outside off stump, and kept beating their edges. His round-the-wicket angle forced the batsmen to play, and he kept finding movement to straighten the ball past their groping bats.
At one point he beat Cook's outside edge three times in four balls. All three times, Cook looked down and re-marked his guard. Yards in front of him Shami stood quietly, hands on hips, disbelief all over his face. But he did not change his plan or lose intensity. He kept running in, with wrist right behind the ball and seam upright, and stuck to his line of attack. He only conceded 13 runs in those nine overs.
England only made 55 runs in the session, in 31 overs, and their uncertainty was summed up in their control figures. Before lunch, they had a control percentage of 79.54 against India's quicks. Between lunch and tea, it dropped to 69.84.
Shami, Ishant and Bumrah were validating Kohli's decision to leave out the allrounder Hardik Pandya and go in with just four specialist bowlers. India might have felt Pandya's absence had any of the three quicks been wayward and released the pressure on England's batsmen.
But nothing swayed them from their lines and lengths and plans. Nothing could distract them, not the two dropped catches, not the plays and misses, not the loss of both of India's reviews, by the second over after tea, as Kohli grew restless for a wicket.
That wicket didn't come for 40.1 overs as Cook and Moeen added 78 at 1.81 per over. It was frustrating, but the fast bowlers knew they had no choice on this slow pitch but to remain disciplined and build pressure from both ends. Right through the series, they had seen the rewards of staying patient rather than going all-out to attack.
The wicket, as Bumrah's subdued reaction showed, didn't come in the way India may have envisioned it, but they had found the opening. Minutes after Cook walked back, Bumrah erupted in joy after sending Joe Root back for a duck with a vicious incoming ball that pinned him to the crease and trapped him in front. England's captain reviewed in vain.
In the next over, after straightening one and forcing Jonny Bairstow to nick behind, Ishant walked back to his mark in a matter-of-fact way. The job wasn't done yet.
The accuracy of India's quicks, already so impressive, reached a peak in the final session as they kept hitting a good length over and over. They bowled 81 balls on a good length, 28 short of a good length, and 17 full.
Ishant, Bumrah and Shami kept coming back, kept bowling at a high pace, and kept asking questions of England's middle and lower order. At tea, murmurs around the crowd had predicted a big century for Cook and a massive total for England. By close of play, the India fans at The Oval were dancing the bhangra in the aisles.