An unbeaten half-century by top-order batter Cheteshwar Pujara stretched Indias lead to 257 on day three of the Edgbaston Test against England on Sunday. At stumps, India are 125/3 in 45 overs, with Pujara stitching an unbeaten stand of 50 with Rishabh Pant (30 not out).
Gaining a 132-run lead after Mohammed Siraj picked four wickets while Jasprit Bumrah scalped three in a second session comeback to bowl out England for 284 in 61.3 overs, with Jonny Bairstow making a belligerent 106. India will be aware that England have had chased 277, 299 and 296 in their last three games and would need to bat for as long as possible to inch closer to gaining the Pataudi Trophy.
In the final session, Hanuma Vihari was enticed by Stuart Broad to drive, but the safe hands of Bairstow took the catch safely at slip. Virat Kohli got off the mark with a cover drive and replayed it when Broad returned in his next over. Pujara continued with his risk-free play and even survived a close lbw appeal when Matthew Potts rapped him on his front pad.
Kohli stroked James Anderson for an impressive off-drive before Ben Stokes got one to kick up from length and took the glove edge of Kohli to wicketkeeper Sam Billings, who spilled it but Joe Root at first slip completed the catch on rebound. Pujara continued to be patient in leaving balls outside the off-stump, rotating the strike judiciously and hitting an occasional boundary. Pant, the first innings centurion, was off and running with a flick through deep mid-wicket off Broad.
As England’s bowlers continued to feed balls to Pant straight towards the leg-stump, he picked ones and twos easily while drilling easy boundaries through mid-on and mid-wicket regions. He even resisted the temptation of hitting Joe Root big when the part-time off-spinner floated loopy deliveries outside off-stump.
Pujara’s work on holding one end up bore fruit when he brought up his fifty in his comeback Test with a single flicked through deep mid-wicket before Pant was deceived by low bounce on an attempted cut, which wicketkeeper Sam Billings couldn’t grab, making it a day which clearly belonged to India.
Earlier, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah looking threatening with the ball, beating the outer as well as inner edges of both Stokes and Bairstow multiple times. In between, Bairstow had an exchange of words with Virat Kohli, who was fielding in the slip cordon.
From 34th over, England seemed to shift gears, with Stokes and Bairstow taking a boundary each off Shami and the latter welcoming Siraj with back-to-back boundaries on both sides of the wicket. Stokes had luck on his side when he skied a shot off Shami, but Shardul Thakur shelled the chance at cover, giving him a life on 18. Bairstow added salt to the wound by smashing the next two balls for boundaries.
After Bairstow reached his fifty, Thakur struck in his very first over when Bumrah took a screamer of a catch, diving full length to his left at mid-off to dismiss Stokes just one ball after dropping a sitter of him. But Bairstow continued to march on, smashing short as well as full balls from Siraj and Thakur for boundaries.
Post lunch, Bairstow continued from where he left for lunch, clipping Thakur in the gap between deep mid-wicket and deep mid-on for a boundary. He then got his century with a crunchy back-foot punch off Thakur square through the off-side, with Jadeja slipping on the boundary and allowing the ball to cross the rope for a boundary.
Bumrah and Jadeja combined to concede only six in four overs of sustained pressure. The beneficiary of that tightness was Shami, who delivered the breakthrough for India with the first ball of his spell to end Bairstow’s knock at 106 as he couldn’t resist driving hard away from his body and gave a healthy edge to Kohli at first slip, who directed a flying kiss immediately towards him.
India peppered Broad with short-pitched stuff and in an attempt to break free, he skied one high in air off Siraj, giving a simple catch to Pant. Siraj got his third scalp when Billings played on while trying to guide the ball through third man and ended England’s innings when Potts nicked to second slip for a low catch, with replays taking long time to decide whether the ball had hit the ground or Iyer’s finger was on ground before the catch.
With a lead of 132, Anderson struck early, squaring up Shubman Gill up with a ball angling in from a good length and moved away late, with the extra bounce taking the shoulder edge to second slip. Despite England’s bowlers getting to make the ball talk, Pujara and Vihari played risk-free cricket, with the former remaining unbeaten at the end of day’s play.
(Inputs from IANS)