Match evenly poised


Cheteshwar Pujara scored an unbeaten century (132*) to help India post 273 all-out in the first innings and take a 27-run lead on day 2 of the fourth Test at Rose Bowl Cricket Stadium on Friday. England were 6/0 after four overs, trailing India by 21 runs, before the day’s play ended. Replying to England’s 246, India rode Pujara’s brilliantly paced essay which lasted 257 balls and was laced with 16 fours to get past England even after losing wickets in a hurry post lunch. Along with skipper Virat Kohli (46), Pujara stitched together 92-run third wicket stand to lay the foundation and then joined hands with tailenders Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah for 32-run and 46-run associations, respectively.

Pujara’s innings and his last-wicket stand of 46 runs with Jasprit Bumrah (6) have virtually made the encounter at Rose Bowl a game of second innings. He got to his 15th century, and second outside Asia, with a double over the bowler’s head, and well aware of the significance of the knock to the final outcome, the unassuming India number three raised his bat and helmet in celebration. It was appropriate, even as the visitors inched closer to England’s first-innings effort.

Pujara’s footwork against spin, always a feature of his game in home conditions, came to the fore in the first innings of an overseas Test, and it helped India. As he settled down, the batsman looked comfortable against the pacers and ensured there was no hiccup from at least one end. In what turned out to be another eventful day of Test cricket, India slumped from 161 for four to 195 for eight in the final session of play, with veteran off-spinner Moeen Ali doing the bulk of the damage.


Had it not been for Mooen’s impressive return of 5/63, India would have run away with the game as the visitors negated the seam duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad in the first session, reaching 100 for two at lunch.

England enjoyed the upper hand in the post-lunch session despite dogged defiance from Pujara as India went into tea at 181 for five. Rishabh Pant (0) patiently left the deliveries outside the off-stump before Moeen Ali got one to straighten and trapped him leg-before at the stroke of tea.

Pujara, however, batted in his customary style, reaching 70 off 151 balls with nine boundaries to his credit. Pujara took time to settle down and waited patiently for the loose deliveries to dispatch them to the boundary. Skipper Virat Kohli (46) once again looked good for a big score before Sam Curran managed to draw him forward, inducing a thickish outside edge to Alastair Cook in the slip cordon.

Kohli and Pujara added 92 runs for the third wicket after Shikhar Dhawan (23) and Lokesh Rahul (19) were dismissed cheaply by Stuart Broad (2/50). Kohli’s 71-ball knock had six boundaries.

However, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane (11) would consider himself unlucky as he was trapped leg before off a no-ball from Ben Stokes. The TV replays clearly showed that Stokes had overstepped but a howler from the third umpire Joel Wilson proved to be Rahane’s undoing.

Despite calling for a review, Wilson, after repeated replays, ruled it as a legal delivery.

England lead the five-match series 2-1, after winning the first two Tests at Birmingham and Lord’s, with India pulling one back with a victory in Nottingham.

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