Chennai Test: England's lower order gives it the upper hand

After England's last four scored 157 of the team's 477, India batted for 20 overs to score 60 without loss.

Liam Dawson (left) and Adil Rashid put on 108 runs for the eighth wicket to take England to a 450-plus total in the first innnings.   -  K. Pichumani

If headlines on Day One were dominated by an English spinner nullifying India’s spin attack, Day Two would be about two others emulating him. Debutant >Liam Dawson and >Adil Rashid frustrated India for much of the day to steer their team to a big total of 477, as >Ravichandran Ashwin & Co. toiled on a slow pitch at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium without significant rewards. Rather, it was India’s seam attack which provided crucial breakthroughs and broke a nagging partnership of 108 against the run of play.


>K. L. Rahul and >Parthiv Patel, opening for India, showed they had learnt from their opponents with a phase of patience followed by some confident boundaries in the last hour of play to take India to 60 without loss. India’s regular opener Murali Vijay was under observation by the physio after he strained his left shoulder trying to field a ball. In all, the Indians were on the field for 157.2 overs, much of Saturday due to a little known man in international cricket.

Dawson may have been drafted into England’s team for his spinning credentials, but he gave a solid display of his batting capabilities here. He slowly broke India’s momentum when it had claimed three wickets in the morning session, and shepherded the rest of the innings with an unbeaten knock of 66 that was attritional but effective. He was woken up to Test cricket with the second ball he faced; Ishant Sharma bowled a short ball to him that pinged him on the helmet and forced a visit by the physio. He was firm and full of graft thereafter, providing Rashid with confidence that helped the partnership blossom.

Both batsmen were circumspect early on in their innings, negotiating both the seamers and the spinners with lots of defence and dot balls.

Dawson hit only four fours in his innings that consumed 148 balls, all of them off loose deliveries. He tickled >Umesh Yadav for a glace through fine leg deep in the first session to collect his first boundary, and soon after, pounced on a short delivery from Ashwin for another. A lacklustre >Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja were also punished by him with firm strokes later on.

Mishra, in particular, came under attack. The leg-spinner allowed England to generate a momentum of run-making after a slow phase of play that had tied the batsmen down to their crease. After a slow start, Rashid — he had scored only 13 off 77 deliveries — hit Yadav for four through the off-side with an uncertain stroke and then flicked through the on-side. This gave Rashid confidence enough to attempt more. Mishra’s innocuous deliveries were not only knocked around for runs easily, Rashid also exhibited some stylish shots and collected four fours off him in relatively quick time.

India’s spinners, in a likely sign of desperation, switched between over and round the wickets to bring about a breakthrough. It made no difference to the two at the crease, with Rashid making a mockery of it with a panache-laden shot through the covers. This brought up his half-century, his second in Tests, in 133 minutes of application. He brought up the 100 partnership in the same over, off Ravindra Jadeja, with a strong cut through point. India abandoned the over and round the wickets idea soon after.

However, just when India seemed to be running out of options, Rashid fell for 60 trying to attempt another flashy stroke. He tried to force Yadav through the off-side but edged behind for an anti-climax.

England tried to accelerate under the aegis of a set Dawson, who had also reached his fifty. >Stuart Broad hit a couple of fours in his cavalier knock, one of them a flashy cut to third man. He was run out trying to take a third after glancing Jadeja to fine-leg. Dawson himself tried to generate some quick runs, slogging Ashwin for a six to deep-midwicket where the substitute fielder Axar Patel almost caught him.

Dawson remained unbeaten as Mishra finally received his first scalp soon after, Jake Ball beaten by a googly and bowled. It was a rare success for a spinner on a day which began with Ashwin getting >Ben Stokes caught behind in the first over.

The major gains were got without spin. The quicks bowled the short ball frequently which accounted for the wickets of Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali in that first hour. Buttler was given to taste a couple of short-pitched deliveries by >Ishant Sharma before being snared by one that was full and straight. He was caught unawares and played all around it to be dismissed lbw.

Moeen was also tested with the short one. He top-edged the first one he faced in the day, and fell soon after to Yadav with a mistimed stroke, attempting a pull when he had been softened up by a couple of them on the ribs.

Dawson, though shaken by a nasty welcome to Test cricket, swayed and ducked well before settling down for his long haul that enabled England to lay the foundation for an unrelenting finish to a gruelling tour.

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