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Rajkot Test: England plunder runs versus sloppy India

England make India pay for dropping five catches and sluggish fielding, piling up 537 to leave the hosts under pressure on Day 2 of the Rajkot Test

cricket Updated: Nov 10, 2016 22:02 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Ben Stokes was dropped twice by Wriddhiman Saha off Umesh Yadav’s successive overs.
Ben Stokes was dropped twice by Wriddhiman Saha off Umesh Yadav’s successive overs.(AFP)

Virat Kohli and his men find themselves in an unfamiliar situation of having to chase the game at home, in the opening Test against England at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium. Having posted a total of 537, this match is for Cook and Co to lose.

India were expected to set the tone for the series, but when they came out to bat, with two hours of play left on Thursday evening, uppermost on their openers’ mind was to make the match safe. Openers Murali Vijay (25 batting) and Gautam Gambhir (28 batting) calmed nerves with an unfinished partnership of 63. India still trail by 474 runs.

A team which fluffed five catches in an innings has itself to blame. The hosts were left to rue the two edges put down by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha as Ben Stokes, along with Moeen Ali, put the visitors in a position of strength. Stokes smashed 128 and Ali 117 to power England to a mammoth total, their third highest in India.

To add to three missed chances on Wednesday, India dropped two more on the second day and a spirited England made them pay.

It was a test of keeping skills for Wriddhiman Saha. Used to constricting teams to totals below 300 in unforgiving home conditions, here he had been kept in the field for more than one-and-a-half days. It is when the muscles start to tire and concentration wavers. England were touching 400 when Stokes, on 60, slashed at a Umesh Yadav delivery but Saha couldn’t hold on to the sharp catch. The pacer looked in disbelief as in his next over, Saha grassed Stokes again.

Taken apart with the second new ball by England’s overnight pair of Stokes and Moeen, Yadav had come back strong in his second spell of the morning. But he had nothing to show for it (4-0-13-0).

India’s ground fielding was equally sloppy. (AP)

India’s ground fielding was also sloppy. England batsmen were happy to take on the throws of Gautam Gambhir, Amit Mishra and R Ashwin.

Spin not king

Most surprising was the ineffectiveness of the spinners. To be fair, it’s a batting track but Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Mishra lacked discipline and guile to put any pressure on the batsmen.

The fast bowlers put up a better effort. Yadav was unlucky and Mohammed Shami got both the wickets to fall before lunch.

Ashwin was taken off after Stokes took two fours in an over, which left his day’s first spell reading 7-0-30-0. Mishra, at the other end, conceded 37 runs off his first eight overs of the day.

When Jadeja replaced Mishra from the pavilion end, Stokes gave the charge to hit the first ball for four, took two off the second and scooped the next for four, 10 runs coming in the first three balls.

Ben’s show

The opening session was crucial for India to regain the initiative. But Moeen and Stokes surprised them by attacking the second new ball.

Moeen completed his century in the first over of the day and celebrated it with a flurry of boundaries. Virat Kohli was forced to introduce spin as early as the sixth over, but it had no effect on the England batsmen.

Shami uprooted Moeen’s off-stump with reverse swing but Stokes held firm. He continued to play aggressively, handling everything thrown at him with ease.

After long, the BCCI curator has produced a typical subcontinent track. There is good value for shots and the surface is expected to stay true on the third day too. The fast bowlers had carry but there wasn’t much movement. The spinners are likely to come into play as the game progresses and the cracks widen.

Looking ahead

Unless, the Indian batsmen do something silly, the hosts look good for a strong reply. Gambhir and Vijay were comfortable against the new ball and the spinners, and if they see off the morning session, England bowlers will come under pressure. Ben Stokes, a fine exponent of reverse swing who had suffered cramp after his innings, will be the one the Indians will have to watch out for.