India make strong start after England post 400

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Mumbai, India (AP) — India’s batsmen made a strong start in their reply to England’s 400 all out on day two of the fourth test, reaching 146 for the loss of just one wicket by the close.

Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, second from left, bats on the second day of the fourth cricket test match between India and England in Mumbai, India, Friday, Dec. 9. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, second from left, bats on the second day of the fourth cricket test match between India and England in Mumbai, India, Friday, Dec. 9. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara put on 107 runs for the second wicket as batsmen enjoyed an easy, slow-turning wicket at the Wankhede Stadium that offered no hope to seamers and some assistance to spinners. England’s spinners were not able to control the ball as well as their Indian counterparts did. India’s spinners took all 10 English first innings wickets.

At stumps, Vijay was unbeaten on 70 runs, while Pujara was batting on 47 not out. The hosts trail by 254 runs.

The duo had come together just before tea when Lokesh Rahul (24) was bowled by Moeen Ali (1-44). Pujara and Vijay then added 84 runs after the break in a wicketless session for England.

“400 can happen sometimes with tailenders batting together. They were lucky enough to get there. I thought we could have restricted them to 375. But we are in a good position at 150-odd for 1. We are very well placed,” said India’s Parthiv Patel at the end of day’s play.

Vijay mixed caution with aggression, and brought up his 15th test half-century off 126 balls. He hit six fours and two sixes in all.

Pujara faced 102 deliveries, and hit six boundaries. Their 100-stand came off 195 balls.

This was after England were bowled out for 400 runs in their first innings. Ravichandran Ashwin took his 23rd five-wicket haul in test cricket, finishing with 6-112.

It was his seventh five-for in 2016. Ravindra Jadeja took 4-109 as the two spinners shared all ten English wickets.

“On a red soil wicket, it is very difficult to contain scoring rate. We did that in the second session (yesterday) and that is the reason we got wickets in the third session. Ashwin, Jadeja and Jayant Yadav have been keeping the English batsmen quiet,” said Patel.

Jos Buttler scored his sixth test half-century and put on 51 runs with Jake Ball (31).

Starting from overnight an 288-5, Ben Stokes (31) was dismissed in the third over of the morning. He was adjudged caught at slip off Ashwin after DRS review in favour of the bowler.

Jadeja also removed Chris Woakes (11), caught behind, and bowled Adil Rashid (0-49) to leave the visitors at 334-8.

Buttler reached his half-century off 106 balls, and then hit 50 off only 69 balls with Ball to take back the initiative. It was a handsome return for the keeper-batsman who hasn’t played much red-ball cricket of late.

“Not playing cricket was the best thing that happened to me. I was able to think about the game when I got injured. Playing too much doesn’t give enough time to think and break down your game. It was vital for me to get the best out of myself. Of course, getting picked gives you confidence, and shows the coach and selectors believe in you,” said Buttler, about his comeback to the test team.

“It was very pleasing to get runs when the team needed them. I really enjoyed my time in the middle against quality bowlers in their conditions. It is still a good batting wicket and you just have to put the consistent turn out of your mind, not be alarmed by it,” he added.

Virat Kohli had dropped Ball (on nought) at slip, off Jadeja in the 114th over, and it was a tough but costly chance. He was dismissed shortly after lunch, caught behind off Ashwin.

Buttler though made sure that England breached the 400-mark, and was last man out, bowled by Jadeja.

“Getting up to 400 keeps us in the hunt. The two guys batted well in the last session but we still have a lead of 250 runs. The game can accelerate in this part of the world and we will look to put pressure on India as there are definitely wicket-taking balls in that surface,” Buttler said.

Meanwhile, Australian umpire Paul Reiffel has been advised to rest owing to concussion after he was hit on the head yesterday by a stray throw from the outfield. The ICC, in a statement, said that Reiffel’s scan reports are clear but he won’t be officiating further in this Mumbai test as a precaution.

South Africa’s Marais Erasmus is his replacement, while India’s C Shamshuddin will officiate as the TV umpire.