England seizes initiative in 4th test against India
SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) — England seized the initiative in the fourth test against India after reaching 260-8 by the end of a gripping and fluctuating third day at Southampton, for a lead of 233 runs on Saturday.
Jos Buttler’s battling knock of 69 and telling contributions from Joe Root (48) and Sam Curran (37 not out) left England as favorite for a victory that would clinch the five-match series. England leads 2-1.
In a test that has swayed this way and that, the Indians took the wicket of Adil Rashid (11) on the last ball of the day and were still in with a good chance if they can quickly wrap up England’s second innings on Sunday.
Only tailenders Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson were left to bat for England, which will be happy to see the pitch starting to play a few tricks with reverse-swing in the equation thanks to a worn late-season square.
India is facing by far its highest chase to win a test match in England, and keep the series alive.
Buttler played a vital role in adding 56 runs with Ben Stokes (30) and then 55 with Curran, just as England appeared to be wobbling at 122-5. It was another patient knock from Buttler, England’s best batsman in the series.
“Anything above 250 would be a great number to try and eke out tomorrow morning,” said Buttler. “Anything above that, we have seen it can be challenging out there so that would give us plenty to work with.
“Games like this, where it swings both ways, are the ones you want to be involved in and be able to affect the game. It’s been a brilliant day and a brilliant test so far, and I’m sure tomorrow will be another big day as well.”
Resuming on 6-0 and 21 runs behind, England’s openers appeared set to at least wipe out the team’s deficit until Alastair Cook (12) was suckered into a drive by Jasprit Bumrah and eventually caught by juggling second slip Lokesh Rahul at his third attempt.
Moeen Ali’s curious promotion to No. 3, ahead of Joe Root, did not work out as he also fell cheaply for 9, Rahul again taking the catch for Ishant Sharma as the paceman created his usual confusion for left-handers from round the wicket.
A second and final official warning for running on the pitch soon followed for Sharma, though, and captain Virat Kohli took him out of the attack.
Mohammed Shami (3-53) stood up either side of lunch for India and set England back just when it seemed Keaton Jennings and Root might be reclaiming the initiative with a stand of 59.
Shami had Jennings lbw for 36 from round the wicket on the last ball before lunch, and Jonny Bairstow paid for a moment of misjudgment and apparent over-confidence when he pushed at an uppish first delivery of the second session and was bowled between bat and body for a golden duck. It was his second first-ball dismissal in his last three innings, both bowled.
Root was two runs short of what would have been a skillful 50 when he responded uncertainly to Stokes’ call for a needlessly sharp single and, without a dive which might have saved him, was run out by Shami’s direct hit.
Stokes shut India out for 110 balls until he became Ravichandran Ashwin’s first wicket of the innings, squeezing a very full ball off a thick edge to slip.
Buttler was joined by Curran, who hit a crucial 70 in the first innings, and swept to a 96-ball fifty with a cover-driven four off Ashwin.
It was the second new ball which proved to be Buttler’s downfall as he became the 10th player to be dismissed lbw in the match, when the returning Sharma got one to nip in sufficiently to hit him just in line.