A second double hundred in the last 5 innings for skipper Joe Root coupled with an attacking 82 by Ben Stokes were the highlights of the second day’s play of the series opener in Chennai. England, resuming on Day 2 at 263 for 3 ended at 555 for the loss of 8 wickets. It is England’s third-highest total in the first innings in a Test match in India and the highest in 36 years. The visitors are in a commanding position with the runs on the board to dictate the course of play over the next three days.
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The day started with Jasprit Bumrah and R Ashwin bowling a good first spell but without any real help and purchase from the wicket. Ishant Sharma continued to impress but could not find a way to get an early wicket. Root and Stokes grew in confidence with the latter playing the role of the aggressor. Ashwin dropped Stokes - a tough caught and bowled chance - when the all-rounder was on 31.
He was given another reprieve in the very next over when Cheteshwar Pujara dropped one off the bowling of Shahbaz Nadeem. And he made India pay! Root soon registered his third 150-plus score in his last 5 innings while Stokes got stuck into Nadeem to register a quick half century off just 73 balls. The left-arm orthodox bowler bowled better today getting some turn and sharp bounce from the wicket. However, he was not able to do that on a consistent basis to trouble the pair of Root and Stokes. England had scored 92 runs without losing a wicket in the first session on Day 2.
India finally broke the 124-run partnership when Nadeem dismissed Stokes post Lunch for an attacking 82 off just 118 deliveries - he hammered 10 fours and 3 sixes in his knock. Root continued to defy the Indian bowlers and went on playing out time and overs. He did not show any signs of fatigue and just milked the bowling putting the bad deliveries to the boundary. He lofted Ashwin over long on to record his fifth double hundred in Test cricket. Root contributed 49 of the 86-run fifth-wicket partnership with Ollie Pope. Both of them departed post Tea in successive overs to Ashwin and Nadeem but the damage had already been done.
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Jos Buttler scored 30 off 51 deliveries while Dom Bess remained undefeated on 28 to take England to 555 for 8 at close of play on Day 2. India got 4 wickets in the final session with Ishant Sharma picking two in two balls but it was a case of too little too late. England had already breached 500 and scored more than a hundred post Tea. Ishant remained one short of joining the 300-Club for India.
Nadeem put in a better show today although he was still guilty of bowling short allowing the English batsmen to cut him for plenty of runs. Washington Sundar was more restrictive on Day 2 but did not look threatening with his gentle off-spinners. The two pacers along with Ashwin toiled hard on an unhelpful wicket and returned with two wickets each.
India find themselves in a position they have not often had to confront at home in the last 7-8 years. But given their exceptional record in these conditions and the famed batting line-up, do not be surprised if they pile on the runs on Day 3 and Day 4 and outscore England.
However, England have thrown in the challenge which will only add more fire to this massive series.
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