England leads India by 544 runs in 3rd test
SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) — Desperate to end a disastrous run of seven defeats in nine tests, England built India a 569-run mountain to climb at the Rose Bowl on Monday, hoping that the tourists’ batsmen will struggle on a wicket where its own top order had enjoyed rare success.
In reply, India had reached 25-1 at stumps on day two of the third test, 544 runs behind England’s commanding first innings of 569-7 declared.
While that mountain appears daunting right now, a good day’s batting on Tuesday could easily see the test heading for a draw. England’s task is to dismiss India — twice — in only three days on a wicket which has drawn some criticism for being too easy to bat on.
Shikhar Dhawan (6) edged James Anderson to captain Alastair Cook for England’s breakthrough before close of play.
Earlier, Ian Bell smashed 167, his 21st test century, before he was caught by Pankaj Singh at mid-on for Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s third wicket.
Bell blasted Ravindra Jadeja for six for the second time in his innings to reach three figures, and followed up with four-six-four in the next three balls.
It was Bell’s first century since August 2013 against Australia.
“You have to be proactive,” Bell said. “I feel like I have been playing well but finding strange ways to get out or having starts and not going on. It was nice to go through and get a big hundred.”
Bell looked to follow the example of Cook, who exploited a flat wicket on day one to rediscover his confidence and made 95.
After Bell got his hundred, Moeen Ali (12) was dismissed cheaply in the next over when he toe-ended to the slips from Kumar, and Ajinkya Rahane took a superb diving catch.
It was again a short delivery that brought about Moeen’s demise. He appeared to rush through the pull shot as the ball came up at him, and directed it to the slips where Rahane dived across.
Moeen is unlikely to face punishment from the England and Wales Cricket Board after being photographed wearing wristbands saying “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine” while batting. The ECB told The Associated Press it did not believe Moeen had committed any offence, while adding that it did not know he was going to wear the wristbands.
But the 27-year-old Moeen could still be in trouble from cricket’s governing body ICC whose regulations do not allow players to display political, religious or racial statements on their clothing and equipment while taking part in international matches.
Dismissing Moeen gave Kumar his second wicket of the second session, after he enticed Joe Root (3) into playing and edging behind, where he was caught by India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Kumar finished the day as India’s most successful bowler, but still had underwhelming figures of 3-101.
Jos Buttler then blasted an entertaining 85 off 83 balls for his debut half-century. He was bowled by Jadeja to bring about England’s declaration.
The aggression in Buttler’s knock was enjoyed by the Rose Bowl crowd, but he rode his luck for his 85. India thought it had got his wicket for a duck when he edged into the slips, but the umpires conferred and decided it had not carried.
He was then dropped at first slip on 23 by Dhawan off Mohammed Shami and Dhoni missed an easy stumping when he was on 59.
England, beginning day two on 247-2, had a strong opening session where it strengthened its position in the match.
Gary Ballance, 104 not out overnight, continued his imperious form from Sunday, but was caught behind off Rohit Sharma by Dhoni shortly before lunch on 156 — India’s only breakthrough of the session.
Ballance, though, must feel unfortunate to have been removed by Sharma for his first test wicket, as replays clearly showed the ball hit his thigh pad and missed his bat.
Replays are unavailable to both sides in this series, with India a long-standing opponent of the technology.