2nd Test: England reach 67/1 at stumps on day three; need 332 runs for win over India

February 4, 2024
Set an imposing target of 399 to beat India in the second Test at the Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium, England ended day three’s play at 67/1 in 14 overs.

Visakhapatnam, Feb 4 (IANS) Set an imposing target of 399 to beat India in the second Test at the Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium, England ended day three’s play at 67/1 in 14 overs.

Though India are very much in the ascendancy, there remains the outside chance of England completing an improbable chase through their Bazball style of playing Test cricket. Ben Duckett made 28 in a fifty-run opening stand with Zak Crawley before being dismissed by Ravichandran Ashwin.

Crawley is batting on 29, alongside the promoted Rehan Ahmed, who’s unbeaten on nine, with England needing 332 more runs for an astonishing victory in what is the toughest challenge of the Bazball era so far. No team has ever made 300 in a fourth-innings chase in India and England’s challenge also includes a pitch with variable bounce, as well as Joe Root’s right little finger injury.

With 14 overs left in the day, Duckett and Crawley took two boundaries each off Mukesh Kumar, though Bumrah got the new ball to talk and ask questions of the openers. Crawley was quick to slog-sweep Kuldeep Yadav for six, followed by Duckett taking two fours off him via sweeps.

But Ashwin struck by ending Duckett’s stay with a drifting-in delivery which he bat-pad to wicketkeeper KS Bharat, who dived forward from his usual keeping position to take a diving catch. Crawley then drove Ashwin down the ground for four while Rehan took two boundaries off Axar to end an engrossing day of Test cricket.

Previously, riding on Shubman Gill’s third Test century, and some important contributions from Axar Patel and Ashwin, India ended their second innings at 255 in 78.3 overs. Gill got a few slices of luck early on and made it count by slamming 104 off 147 balls, his first Test century as a number three batter.

His twin partnerships — 81 with Shreyas Iyer and 89 with Patel (45), followed by a late 29 from Ashwin helped India reach a competitive total, but they were unable to bat England out of the match. For England, spinners Tom Hartley and Rehan Ahmed picked up seven wickets between themselves as the Indian lower order folded quickly, despite missing Root due to a finger injury.

In the morning, it was the ageless James Anderson who provided the early breakthroughs for England. His first over of the morning saw him send Rohit Sharma’s off-stump on a cartwheel ride with a delivery that nipped away just slightly. He then got one to nip away and take Yashasvi Jaiswal’s outside edge on the drive to first slip.

Gill could have been the third batter to get out if he hadn’t taken the DRS on an lbw decision against Hartley, with replays showing a slight inside edge. In the next over, Gill escaped again when Anderson trapped him lbw with a nip-backer, as the umpire’s call showed the ball clipping just the top of leg-stump.

Gill teed off by smacking a six over Shoaib Bashir’s head and glanced Hartley for four more. Rehan’s introduction didn’t yield a scalp as Gill cut twice off him for boundaries. After sweeping Hartley for four, Gill took a brace of fours off Ahmed, including a cover drive, to reach a valuable fifty.

The 81-run stand for the third wicket ended when Iyer mistimed a slog off Hartley and Ben Stokes ran 22 yards from mid-off, bringing out the dive to take a difficult over-the-shoulder catch. Rehan came back to strike a big blow before lunch, by getting one to skid on and take the bottom edge of Rajat Patidar’s backfoot drive for Ben Foakes to take a superb low catch.

Post-lunch, Gill smacked a six down the ground off Rehan and went on to take two consecutive boundaries off him via a sweep and whip through mid-wicket. Gill and Axar were easily milking the spinners for singles while occasionally taking boundaries off them to take their partnership past fifty.

Gill finally got his hundred in 132 balls with a flick off Bashir for a single, with his century celebration being subdued and facial expressions showing a sigh of relief. Shortly after, his fine knock ended when his reverse sweep against an off-break delivery from Bashir resulted in the ball taking a glove edge to Ben Foakes behind the stumps, with England getting the out decision on review.

Axar was next to depart, trapped lbw on review by a length ball from Hartley which kept low. India’s innings ended quickly post-tea as Bharat mistimed his pull to wide mid-on off Rehan, while Kuldeep top-edged a slog-sweep to mid-wicket off Hartley. Ashwin was dropped at slip and bided his time before swatting Rehan for four, followed by lofting a six and a four coming off a sweep against the leg-spinner.

The 26-run stand for the ninth wicket ended when Bumrah edged to gully off Hartley and Rehan ended India’s innings when Foakes took a sharp catch of a faint outside edge coming off Ashwin’s bat, as the hosts lost their last six wickets for 44 runs.

Brief scores:

India 396 and 255 all out in 78.3 overs (Shubman Gill 104, Axar Patel 45; Tom Hartley 4-77, Rehan Ahmed 3-88) lead England 253 and 67/1 in 14 overs (Zak Crawley 29 not out; Ravichandran Ashwin 1-8) by 332 runs


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