Hyderabad: Top-order batter and vice-captain Ollie Pope slammed his fifth Test century and first in India to pull England out of trouble and helped them take a lead of 126 runs at the end of day three in the first Test at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Saturday.
Pope, who made just one in England’s first innings, stood up amidst a fightback from India to hit an unbeaten 148, laced with 17 boundaries, which guided England to 316/6 in 77 overs, the first time a visiting team has scored 300 in a Test match second innings in India since Nagpur 2012.
The day began with England facing the prospect of conceding a lead of 200 runs, but Joe Root’s 4-79 meant India added only 15 runs to their overnight total and were all out for 436 in their first innings, with the hosts’ taking a 190-run lead. Though Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin helped India bounce back in the second session, England made 154 runs in the final session, losing just one wicket to make day three theirs.
With the pitch going slower and slower, it meant the batters had time to adjust their strokeplay against the bowlers. Pope hugely benefitted from it by blunting the spinners with good use of his feet and wrists, survived a fiery Jasprit Bumrah spell, and executed the conventional sweeps and reverse sweeps to good effect to play one of his best knocks in Test cricket.
Apart from Pope messing the line and length of the Indian spinners with his proactiveness, the opening pair of Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett set the tone for England’s much better showing in the second innings with a fine 45-run opening stand. Pope also shared a 112-run stand for the sixth wicket with Ben Foakes (34) and had a reprieve at 110 when Axar Patel dropped his catch off Ravindra Jadeja.
Root and Mark Wood began the morning with eight sedate overs to keep Jadeja and Axar Patel in check. As soon as Leach, nursing a left knee injury, entered the attack, Axar feasted on his overpitched deliveries by striking back-to-back cover drives for boundaries.
But Root came back to trap Jadeja LBW for 87 with an off-break delivery which didn’t turn much, making the left-handed the third Indian batter in the innings to be out in the 80s. On the very next ball, Root got an off-break delivery from around the wicket to turn in and castled Bumrah through the gate.
Axar went on the back foot to cut off Rehan, but the leg-break delivery kept low to beat the batter on the inside edge and it crashed into the stumps, ending India’s innings in the first hour of the day.
Pope and England proved on Day Three that England weren’t any pushovers, something which would give them huge confidence for the rest of the tour. For now, they would aim to take the lead past 200, which could prove to be a tricky proposition for India considering the wear and tear a day four pitch would have.
Brief scores: England 246 and 316/6 in 77 overs (Ollie Pope 148 not out; Ben Duckett 47; Jasprit Bumrah 2-29, Ravichandran Ashwin 2-63) lead India 436 all out in 121 overs (Ravindra Jadeja 87, KL Rahul 86; Joe Root 4-79, Rehan Ahmed 2-105) by 126 runs. IANS