India vs England: Hanuma Vihari scores fifty on debut to keep visitors afloat
Hanuma Vihari made a solid first impression by scoring 56 to lead India’s fightback on Day 3 of the final Test against England at The Oval on Sunday, though the hosts held the upper hand as the visitors reached 240/7 at lunch.
The 24-year-old batsman played late and with soft hands and showed calmness at the crease as he joined Ravindra Jadeja to revive India’s innings from 174/6 at stumps. Jadeja was batting on 41 with Ishant Sharma on one at the interval on the third day.
India added 66 runs from 28 overs in the session, losing one wicket, but were still 92 runs behind England’s first innings total of 332. The pitch was showing signs of wear and tear and Moeen Ali again looked the sharpest.
The session though was about Vihari’s impressive show. He completed his half-century but fell soon after as he looked to step up scoring with off-spinner Moeen Ali providing the breakthrough by getting a thin edge as the batsman played forward in defence close to lunch. The ball didn’t turn as much as Vihari had expected, and a review by India confirmed there was a nick.
The Andhra batsman made a nervous start coming in after tea on Saturday with India on 103/4 following Ajinkya Rahane’s dismissal. But he looked composed in his 77-run partnership with Jadeja, who was unbeaten after rotating the strike well to ensure India didn’t let England get away.
Jadeja’s experience showed as both batsmen played patiently, but the focus was on Vihari. The Andhra batsman’s first-class average of 59.79 coming into the Indian squad is the highest for any current player in the world. His selection ahead of Karun Nair, already in the side, had caused a controversy as well.
Vihari had survived two close leg before calls on Saturday evening and then top-edged hooking Ben Stokes for a six and four while supporting skipper Virat Kohli. However, he vindicated his choice as India’s No 6 on Sunday morning, the early nerves having vanished.
He faced Stuart Broad and James Anderson first up and revealed a compact technique. Vihari has played in the Essex First Division League for two years and is familiar with the conditions to expect. Besides, he was part of the India A tour of England earlier this summer.
Initially, he looked to score on the leg-side but played a full-blooded cover drive off Broad for four and slog-swept Moeen for another boundary before a tap to cover for single off Stokes brought up the first half-century of the innings (56 –124b, 7x4, 1x6).
Vihari was comfortable against the spin of Moeen and Adil Rashid as well and raised hopes of going on to get a century as he was well-set and the conditions were good to bat. Jadeja, playing his first Test of the series, flicked Broad and then tucked Anderson to third man twice in a row for boundaries. A Stokes appeal for caught behind was reviewed, but showed there was no touch.
Jadeja suffered cramp close to lunch, but continued after attention by the physio. England lead the series 3-1.