Indian vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara’s dodged but assured century-stand helped India avoid a batting collapse on Day Four. It also took the visitors to 181/6 at the close of stumps. The duo kept English bowlers at bay for over three hours as the old ball didn’t cause ample trouble.
The visitors had their backs to the wall in the second Test against England as they went to stumps on Day 4 at Lord’s at 181/6 in their second innings, just 154 runs ahead.
Stumps were called early, with eight overs remaining, owing to bad light as England decided to take the new ball in the fading light before the umpires called it a day. Earlier in the day, India were struggling at 55/3 when Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane stitched together exactly 100 runs for the fourth wicket but England claimed three late wickets as the visitors slumped from 155 for three to 181 for six, with only wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant and the tail remaining.
England will be relishing their chances as they were made to work hard in the second session with Pujara and Rahane adding 49 runs between lunch and tea, scoring at an agonisingly slow rate as they repaired the innings with patience and caution.
Here are the talking points from Day 4 of the second Test match between India and England.
Let us talk about Kohli’s form
With two Indian wickets falling overnight on Day 3, Indian fans around the globe were hoping for a special innings from skipper Virat Kohli, who has gone almost 21 months without a ton in international cricket.
The Indian skipper began his innings tenaciously. He got off the mark with an elegant cover-driven four off Mark Wood. By contrast, it took the struggling Pujara 35 balls to score his first run with a single off Sam Curran that was greeted by huge, if ironic, cheers from the large contingent of India fans in a sun-drenched crowd at Lord’s.
Kohli then survived Curran’s review for lbw on height after being rapped on the pad by a deadly in-swinger.
But there was no need for technology when, seemingly playing for the ball that came back, Kohli edged a delivery angled across him and was caught behind off a thin nick, with Curran running towards the Grandstand boundary in joyful celebration. The skipper’s wait for a 71st hundred continues, as criticism keeps piling about the lack of big runs.
Rahane-Pujara dig deep
Pujara and Rahane — India’s veteran middle order pair who have been out of form — dug deep on Sunday, which incidentally happened to be India’s Independence Day. Pujara, in specific, was too defensive, often stepping out and planting his foot to defend at deliveries against the English spinners. The Sunday crowd at Lord’s, too, joined in to celebrate the key landmarks of his innings, when he scored the first run after 34 deliveries, and again when he played out his 100th delivery for just 12 runs, and then finally on his 200th delivery while batting on 40.
Ajinkya, meanwhile, rotated the strike well and even found boundaries occasionally. As the innings and the partnership flourished, the Mumbai batsman became more fluent with his stroke play, and went on to register his 24th fifty in Test cricket. The duo batted out the entire second session of play, ensuring India a steady position in the contest that has been moving in favour of the hosts with each passing day.
However, just when it looked like Pujara had done all the hard work and would reap the benefit on the fifth morning, the Saurashtra batsman was out, falling to a nasty snorter by Wood that rose from the good length spot and took an edge off Pujara’s bat as he had already committed to front foot and looped to up from and edging it to Root at second slip.
Allegations of ball tampering against England players?
Several pictures of England players scuffing the ball with their spikes on the fourth day of Lord’s Test left fans and former cricketers alleging ball tampering.
The Indian team management, however, refused to blame England players for ball-tampering after pictures and videos of them keeping their shoe spikes on the ball emerged on social media during play on Day 4.
Indian team’s batting coach Vikram Rathour said it was not a deliberate attempt to tamper with the ball. “We didn’t see the replays initially as we were on the balcony. We saw them later. It didn’t seem deliberate to us and looked accidental,” Rathour told the media during the day-end interaction.
Quick wickets put India on the back foot again
The English bowlers struck back in the last hour of play, picking three wickets in quick succession. Pujara was surprised by Wood’s extra pace and bounce that caught the edge of his bat and flew to English skipper Joe Root at slips, falling four short of what could have been a steady and much-needed fifty.
Rahane was soon dismissed by Moeen Ali, while looking to plant his bat forward in defence. However, he only managed to get an edge to the wicketkeeper. Ali then added to his tally with an even better delivery that got rid of Ravindra Jadeja, with flight, drift and turn that knocked the off-stump of the Indian left-hander all-rounder who was squared up.
Rishabh Pant entertained the crowds for a brief period, before the umpires asked England to bowl spinners in fading light. However, with the second new ball available, both teams were happier taking the play to the final day.
The three wickets in the final hour tilted the balance in England’s favour while India’s hopes will rest with Pant to score some quick runs on Monday morning so that India could set a target of over 200 runs.