On a surface of variable bounce, the grammar of skipper Virat Kohli’s batsmanship was in sync with the aesthetic elements of it. The Indian captain conjured an unbeaten gem.
Another match-winner, Ravichandran Ashwin spun his way through the English resistance with the sort of aggression that is rare for a spinner. Ashwin scalped five here on Saturday.
The host held the aces going into the fourth day, leading England by 298 runs with seven wickets remaining. This is India’s game to win from here.
India ended Day Three of the second Test at 98 for three with Kohli (56 batting, 70b, 6x4) and a fighting Ajinkya Rahane (22 batting) together at stumps. In the afternoon, England had been dismissed for 255, exactly 200 runs behind Indian first innings at the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy Stadium. Kohli opted not to enforce the follow-on.
When India batted the second time, James Anderson and Stuart Broad bowled with heart and precision.
Broad seamed one back at Murali Vijay and the delivery lobbed off his bat and pad to Joe Root at gully; England won the review. Ideally, Vijay should have let the ball come to him but his initial movement took him forward.
Broad struck again and clinched another review when K. L. Rahul was drawn like moth to fire to a delivery well outside off. In both his innings here, the opener has played away from his body. A little while later, James Anderson first set up and then castled Cheteshwar Pujara with a rousing inswinger that hit middle. The Indian top-order had contributed little.
Skipper Kohli then came up with an innings of beauty. His footwork was in view as he drove Broad and then leg-spinner Adil Rashid for boundaries through the off-side field.
His balance on a track where several deliveries tended to keep low was exemplary. So confident was Kohli that he could whip deliveries from off and middle stumps between mid-on and mid-wicket.
Earlier, Ashwin bowled with intelligence. There was not as much turn for him as in the last phase of Day Two, but Ashwin did use the crease capably and brought in pace variations. There was drift as well for him which meant he was imparting revolutions on the ball.
It was smart bowling for him when he went round the wicket and curled one into the left-handed Ben Stokes (70, 157b, 11x4). The well-set Englishman, beaten by the angle and the work on the ball, had to leave after losing a review. Ashwin cleaned up the tail to scalp five even if he was fortunate to win a leg-before decision against Stuart Broad.
A naturally aggressive batsman, Stokes has added composure to his game. With his big frame and huge back-lift, he appears poised to strike the ball when the bowler comes in but checks himself, if the delivery demands, to present the full face of his bat in defence.
And he moved forward or went back with fluidity. If the Indian bowlers erred in length, Stokes was brutal with his horizontal bat strokes.
The 110-run sixth wicket partnership between Stokes and Bairstow (53, 152b, 5x4) pegged the Indians back; the host struck just once in the pre-lunch session. The attack was also undone by the right-left combination which meant the bowlers had to constantly shift line.
Bairstow is a feisty batsman. The right-hander often went fully forward in defence and or travelled well back even if the danger of a delivery keeping low lurked. And he nicked runs through singles with the occasional sweep thrown in. Eventually, Bairstow’s flourishing back-lift and a tendency to work the ball on the leg-side proved his undoing. Umesh fired a full length delivery to his pads and the ball deflected on to the stumps.
Things began to happen for India after lunch even if Adil Rashid (32 not out) struck a few handy blows. The second new ball was taken in the 83rd over. When the spinners came on, they had a harder ball to work with.
Then, Ashwin got into the act. His job is still unfinished in this Test.
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