London: India’s susceptibility to quality swing bowling once again came to the fore as they struggled to reach 174 for six after England’s tail wagged considerably to give the hosts an upper-hand on the second day of the fifth and final cricket Test here on Saturday.
India still trail England by another 158 runs with four wickets in hand and three full day’s play remaining in the match. Courtesy birthday boy Jos Buttler’s 89 and his 98-run ninth-wicket stand with Stuart Broad (38), England managed a decent first innings score of 332 after they were struggling at 198 for seven at the end of first day’s play.
In reply, India’s top-order disappointed, with Shikhar Dhawan (3) failing once again in what could be his last Test innings for a considerable period of time. KL Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara made identical scores of 37 to stitch together 64 runs for the second wicket to stabilise the Indian innings before the English bowlers got back into the groove, picking up crucial wickets when it mattered.
At stumps, debutant Hanuma Vihari was unbeaten on 25 with Ravindra Jadeja (8 not out) for company as India lost their way after tea. After the final break of the day, conditions favoured bowlers a lot more under heavy cloudy conditions and floodlights as the ball darted around with James Anderson (2/20) and Sam Curran (1/46) troubling the Indian batsmen most.
Rahul looked set for a big score before Curran went through his defense with a nearly unplayable delivery in the 23rd over. Thereafter, India lost three wickets for 33 runs as Anderson wreaked havoc with the moving ball, dismissing both Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in quick succession. Pujara was caught behind, while Rahane (0) was caught at slip in the space of 13 balls.
Just like previous matches, India skipper Virat Kohli (49) looked in great nick and seemed determined to take his side out of troubled waters with positive intent. He hit six boundaries during his 70-ball knock and looked at ease on the crease, even as his colleagues struggled.
But Kohli perished while trying to be too positive, edging a Ben Stokes (2/44) delivery to his counterpart Joe Root in the slip cordon. Vihari looked out of sorts against Stuart Broad’s (1/25) inswingers initially. The bowler had two LBW shouts against the debutant — the first of which looked out on replays but England didn’t opt for DRS.
Vihari then regained his composure and batted till the end of day in company of Ravindra Jadeja (8 not out) In between, young wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant (5) again failed to cash in on the opportunity, edging a Stokes delivery to Alastair Cook in the slip cordon.
Earlier, replying to England’s total, the visitors made a poor start and lost opener Dhawan early, out trapped LBW by Broad in the second over. Rahul though batted with more freedom than in the earlier Tests, and looked to play his shots as he hit four fours.
Pujara, meanwhile, was solid at the other end as they played out a nearly chanceless session. He survived a good LBW shout as TV replays showed England should have opted for DRS but they didn’t. After a comfortable passage of play, Moeen Ali (0/9) teased the two unbeaten batsmen before the tea break as India crossed the 50-run mark.
Pujara survived again, on 10, when Cook put down a catch at forward short leg in the 16th over. In the morning session, Buttler scored his 10th career half-century to rescue England and take them to to 304 for eight as Indian bowlers struggled to wrap up the home team’s tail.
Starting at overnight score of 198 for seven, the Indian pacers found some lateral movement in the morning but were unable to get the English tailenders out.
The English tailenders’ performance has been the main reason why India are 1-3 down in the series and it was a near-repeat effort from the home team’s lower-order on Saturday morning as Indian bowlers failed to get wickets despite getting assistance from the pitch. Mohammed Shami (0/72) was again India’s best bowler on Saturday, beating the bat again and again but luck didn’t favour him.
Adil Rashid (15) and Buttler pushed the score past 200 quickly as 45 runs came in the first hour of play. Jasprit Bumrah (3/64) did account for the wicket of Rashid, out lbw in the seventh over of the morning despite a DRS referral from the batsman.
But Buttler and Broad denied the Indian bowlers any further breakthroughs in the remainder of session, much to the frustration of the Indians. Buttler reached his half-century off 84 balls as England crossed 250 in the 104th over.
Later, Buttler brought up his 50-run partnership with Broad off 61 balls as England’s quick scoring rate added to India’s frustration. India reduced England to 181 for seven at one stage on Friday, but now the game seemed to be slipping away from the visitors.
England have already taken an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series with wins in Birmingham, Lord’s and Southampton. India won the third Test at Nottingham.