Steely Buttler turns tie around, England in command

At stumps on the second day of the fifth Test, India was 174 for six, still trailing by 158, and in dire trouble.

Virat Kohli got out to Ben Stokes when he chased a slightly wide ball and edged it behind on 49.   -  AFP

It was a strenuous day for India at the Oval. First a fine rearguard effort from Jos Buttler and the lower order took England to 332. In the evening, with the ball hooping this way and that, James Anderson and Stuart Broad produced a torrid, searching spell, causing the touring batsmen enormous discomfort.

India lost four wickets before Virat Kohli and G. Hanuma Vihari consolidated, adding 51 runs. Batting had just begun to appear easier when Kohli chased a slightly wide ball from Ben Stokes and edged it behind on 49. Rishabh Pant then came and went, handing Stokes his second wicket. At stumps on the second day of the fifth Test, India was 174 for six, still trailing by 158, and in dire trouble.

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A steely recovery

The visitor will feel it let things drift on Saturday morning. England had been 181 for seven on the first evening, but recovered spectacularly, eventually adding 151 runs for the last three wickets. There was a sense that India's intensity had fallen as Buttler batted with freedom, scoring 89. He is now England's top-scorer this series with 349 runs; his has been an inspired selection.

Broad was greeted with a barrage of short-pitched deliveries; it is the norm now when he comes out to bat. He survived that onslaught, though, slowly working the ball around, and finally made a useful 38. He and Buttler added 98 for the ninth wicket, the stand broken when K.L. Rahul took a fine catch, running back from mid-on and throwing himself forward, to dismiss Broad.



India in troubled waters

India's start did not exactly inspire confidence. Shikhar Dhawan was out leg-before to Broad's first delivery of the innings, the ball jagging back into the left-hander. Rahul then came out swinging. He had decided, it seemed, to hit his way out of bad form, driving and hooking without worry. He had some success with those methods, until he was bowled by Sam Curran for 37. It was a marvelous delivery from the left-armer, the ball full and nipping away when Rahul had expected it to swing back in.

The ball was moving now and Joe Root threw on Anderson and Broad from opposite ends. They bowled for an hour in tandem; it was an intense, dramatic passage of play.

Anderson, who has failed to dismiss Kohli this series, thought he at last had his man when he trapped him in front for 16. Kumar Dharmasena turned the LBW appeal down and England reviewed. The review
was struck down -- impact was 'umpire's call' -- but the ball, according to Hawk Eye, would have crashed into middle and off-stumps. Anderson was not pleased.

He exploded in relief, though, a little later when Cheteshwar Pujara, who had been dropped on 10 by Alastair Cook at forward-short-leg, nicked off. Ajinkya Rahane lasted eight balls till he poked at one from Anderson and was held at second slip.

Hanuma Vihari had an eventful afternoon. He could have been out leg-before to his second ball; umpire Joel Wilson did not think so and England did not review. The ball, Hawk Eye said, would have been hitting the stumps.

Then, in Broad's next over, when he was actually given out LBW, he reviewed. The ball had struck him too high and he was spared. The debutante got off the mark off his ninth ball, with a desperate single. He got through that wretched period gradually, unfurling a couple of boundaries as he improved in confidence. He walked off.