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Vijay, Pujara steady in India’s reply to 400

Wisden India logo Wisden India 09-12-2016

An eye-catching 76 from Jos Buttler, aided by a lively cameo from Jake Ball, took England to an even 400 on the second day of the fourth Test at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday (December 9), after R Ashwin had taken yet another five-for in the morning. India, in response, showed commendable patience and some excellent strokeplay as they went to stumps at 146 for 1, with M Vijay on 70 and Cheteshwar Pujara on 47. The two have already added 107 for the second wicket.

No team has ever lost a Test after scoring 400 in the first innings at the Wankhede, and India needed a sound start if they were to buck that trend. Vijay and KL Rahul provided that. Both started with lovely off drives off Chris Woakes, and though Jimmy Anderson started with three consecutive maiden overs, Rahul then struck a gorgeous off drive that proved to be the signal for Alastair Cook to turn to spin.

Full scorecard: India vs England, 4th Test

Moeen Ali came on in the eighth over, and Adil Rashid was then introduced at the other end as England sought to replicate the success enjoyed by Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who combined to take all ten English wickets. Rahul lofted Rashid’s first ball over mid-off for four, and then cut him for four more, while Vijay stroked Moeen through the covers to ensure that India went to the drinks break with all ten wickets intact.

As is so often the case though, the break in play gave the fielding side the opening. Moeen summoned up a peach of an off break that darted through the gap between Rahul’s bat and pad to clip off stump. And India could so easily have been two down in the next few minutes, as Vijay twice miscued lofted shots off Rashid, the second of which made it to the rope at long-on. When a Rashid half-volley was then thumped straight back down the ground, Cook mystifyingly took the bowler off.

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Jake Ball and Ben Stokes bowled tidy spells, but India built patiently either side of tea. Again, things happened when Rashid entered the fray. Vijay slapped a full toss through the covers for four, but was comprehensively beaten in flight when he had made 45. Unfortunately for Rashid, Jonny Bairstow couldn’t gather.

Anderson, who had enjoyed much success against both the batsmen, was brought back, but, by then, Pujara was getting into his groove. A guide to third man brought up India’s 100, and was followed by a superb square drive.

Vijay, who batted to his own unhurried rhythm, played a deft late cut off Moeen to reach a half-century in 126 balls, and then proceeded to loft him over long-off for six. Pujara cut Anderson behind point for four, and greeted Woakes’s return with a beautiful punched drive through the covers.

Each time England looked to build pressure, the spinners would offer a loose delivery to be put away. When Moeen dropped short, Vijay pulled him for four. When he was too full, Pujara worked him through midwicket. Pujara then slog-swept an awful half-tracker from Rashid down the leg side, and nearly took out Bairstow in the process. The two batsmen were more than content to play the patience game, while the spinners lacked the discipline to execute it effectively enough.

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With Ashwin at the peak of his powers, that wasn’t really an issue for Virat Kohli. Stokes, unbeaten on 25, started the day with a powerful sweep off Jadeja, but was then given out caught behind on review after Ashwin got one to turn across the face of the bat and take the thinnest of edges to slip, via Parthiv Patel’s thigh. Stokes looked unhappy, but the replays appeared to be fairly conclusive. It gave Ashwin a 23rd five-wicket haul, behind only Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh in the Indian all-time list.

Buttler, who started the day on 18, pulled Ashwin for four, before surviving a big leg-before shout from Jadeja on 28. With umpire’s call favouring the batsman, India lost their second review. But Jadeja would not be denied for long, with Woakes nicking one behind to leave England at 320 for 7.



By then, Buttler was finding his range, with a powerful reverse sweep off Jadeja illustrating the damage he could do. But when Rashid offered no shot to a Jadeja delivery that went straight on, it looked as though he wouldn’t have the support to stretch the Indian bowlers. 

Ball, however, was in no mood to follow the script. After an edge off Jadeja had been missed by Kohli, he cut and glanced the bowlers for fours. With Buttler easing to his half-century from 106 balls, Ball swept Jadeja for four more to prompt Kohli to take the second new ball 121 overs into the innings.

Ball said hello to Bhuvneshwar Kumar with a crisp drive and Buttler then clipped him to fine leg to bring up the 50-run partnership from just 69 balls. After lunching at 385 for 8, the innings fizzled out, with Ball (31 off 60) caught behind off Ashwin and Buttler, who had just heaved Ashwin for six, missing with an attempted encore against Jadeja.

The rest of the day belonged to India.

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