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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

India vs England first Test: Ollie Pope's unbeaten 148 guides England to 316/6 at stumps on Day three

In reply to England's first innings total of 246, India were all out for 436 in the morning session

PTI Hyderabad Published 27.01.24, 05:01 PM
England's Ollie Pope celebrates his century during the third day of the first test match between India and England, at Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024

England's Ollie Pope celebrates his century during the third day of the first test match between India and England, at Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Hyderabad, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 PTI

Ollie Pope transformed the RGI Stadium into a gladiatorial fighting arena with a doughty hundred as England reached 316 for six to temporarily resist India’s push for a win on the third day of the first Test here on Saturday.

Pope (148 batting) and Rehan Ahmed (16 batting) were guarding England’s second innings fort at close and the visitors are now 126 runs ahead of India, an unimaginable position at the dawn of the day.

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India were bowled out for 436 in their first innings after building a lead of 190 runs.

It was quite remarkable how Pope, who generally resembles a cat on a hot tin roof in these conditions, mustered fortitude and technical perfection to defy the Indian bowlers, who were primed to finish the match on day three itself, reducing England to 163 for five.

But Pope and Ben Foakes (34) milked 104 runs for the sixth wicket alliance to keep India at bay, stretching the match into the fourth day.

It wasn’t that Pope had complete command in the middle as spinners on occasions beat him for turn and pacers deceived him outside the off-stump.

There was even a reprieve for him on 110 when Axar Patel grassed a fairly straight chance at backward square leg off Ravindra Jadeja when the batter attempted a reverse sweep.

But the 26-year-old Essex man found a way to push those distractions away from his thoughts to build on individual and the team’s score.

Pope, whose main source of runs were sweeps and reverse sweeps, duly completed his first Test hundred, fifth in his career, against India off 154 balls, leading England’s recovery act.

It was a massive effort from a batter who had just 384 runs from nine Tests against India at an average of 24 with a highest of 81 before this innings.

However, credit should also be given to Foakes for playing a mature hand to support Pope in his venture.

The wicketkeeper-batter is one of better players in this England line-up against spin, as he can read the tweakers off their hands and off the pitch.

The Surrey batter who averages 40 in Asia in Tests, put all those abilities into use here to battle Indian spinners for 108 minutes across two sessions as England fought tooth and nail to stay alive in the Test.

The Indian bowlers too looked clueless in the face of this unexpected confrontation from their rivals.

However, the burgeoning stand came to a close when left-arm spinner Axar Patel managed to slip a low grubber past Foakes’ defence to rattle his woodwork.

But before that fight, England resembled a rudderless ship in a storm against a set of brilliant Indian bowlers.

Pacer Jasprit Bumrah found some relevance for himself amidst the dominance of spinners to jettison Joe Root and Ben Duckett to inflict early jolts.

Bumrah managed to sneak an in-ducker past Ben Duckett (47, 52 balls) from the length as the batter was culpable of playing around the ball, while another incoming delivery that kept low gave little chance to Joe Root (2) while hitting his knee rolls.

Soon, the old firm of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja joined the party. Jadeja was the first to get into the act in the post-lunch session, getting rid of Jonny Bairstow (10).

Bairstow negated a ball that turned away from him quite solidly, but the next one from Jadeja went straight and his decision to shoulder arms had a fatal effect on his stint in the middle.

But there was more magic in store as Ashwin got the number of England captain Ben Stokes for the 12th time in Test cricket.

After getting tied down by three maidens in a row by the off-spinner, the left-hander tried to release the pressure going for a forward press but the ball spun past his bat to rattle the stumps.

Stokes’ bewildered face spoke volumes about Ashwin’s mastery over his craft, especially angles.

Before their bowlers made some early inroads into the England line-up, India had a mildly disappointing 54 minutes in the morning session after resuming from overnight 421 for seven.

Jadeja could not bring up a much-anticipated fourth Test hundred, falling leg before to Root.

The left-hander went to front foot to defend a length delivery on off-stump, and the ball took a good amount of turn to hit his pads. Umpire Chris Gaffaney raised his finger as Jadeja opted to review the call.

The ball seemed to have taken a deflection off his bat but the replays remained inconclusive and the third umpire went with the on-field umpire's decision to give the batter out leg before.

In the very next ball, Root castled Bumrah and Ahmed cleaned up Axar as Indian innings came to a quick end, losing their last three wickets without adding any runs.

But as it turned out, it was just a damp start to an exceptional day of cricket.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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