Pope's stunning unbeaten 148 pulls England out of trouble; gives them 126-run lead over India
Hyderabad: Top-order batter and vice-captain Ollie Pope slammed his fifth Test century and first in India to pull England out of trouble and helped them take a lead of 126 runs at the end of day three in the first Test at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Saturday.
Pope, who made just one in England’s first innings, stood up amidst a fightback from India to hit an unbeaten 148, laced with 17 boundaries, which guided England to 316/6 in 77 overs, the first time a visiting team has scored 300 in a Test match second innings in India since Nagpur 2012.
The day began with England facing the prospect of conceding a lead of 200 runs, but Joe Root’s 4-79 meant India added only 15 runs to their overnight total and were all out for 436 in their first innings, with the hosts’ taking a 190-run lead. Though Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin helped India bounce back in the second session, England made 154 runs in the final session, losing just one wicket to make day three theirs’.
With the pitch going slower and slower, it meant the batters had time to adjust their strokeplay against the bowlers. Pope hugely benefitted from it by blunting the spinners with good use of his feet and wrists, survived a fiery Jasprit Bumrah spell, and executed the conventional sweeps and reverse sweeps to good effect to play one of his best knocks in Test cricket.
Apart from Pope messing the line and length of the Indian spinners with his proactiveness, the opening pair of Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett set the tone for England’s much better showing in the second innings with a fine 45-run opening stand. Pope also shared a 112-run stand for the sixth wicket with Ben Foakes (34) and had a reprieve at 110 when Axar Patel dropped his catch off Ravindra Jadeja.
Root and Mark Wood began the morning with eight sedate overs to keep Jadeja and Axar Patel in check. As soon as Leach, nursing a left knee injury, entered the attack, Axar feasted on his overpitched deliveries by striking back-to-back cover drives for boundaries.
But Root came back to trap Jadeja LBW for 87 with an off-break delivery which didn’t turn much, making the left-handed the third Indian batter in the innings to be out in the 80s. On the very next ball, Root got an off-break delivery from around the wicket to turn in and castled Bumrah through the gate.
Axar went on the back foot to cut off Rehan, but the leg-break delivery kept low to beat the batter on the inside edge and it crashed into the stumps, ending India’s innings in the first hour of the day.
In England’s second innings, Crawley took the positive route early on, reverse-sweeping Ashwin twice, while square-driving off Bumrah for a boundary. Crawley’s positive strokeplay continued by lofting Axar for a six down the ground and took a four off Ashwin via a classy cover drive.
But Ashwin eventually got Crawley out by drifting in one from round the wicket and took the outside edge on his forward defence to Rohit Sharma at slip. From the other end, Duckett unfurled his sweeps to superb effect, taking three fours off Ashwin and Axar.
Duckett’s attacking effect rubbed off well on Pope, who looked better and more assured than his confused first innings outing, seen from his cracking square drive past point off Axar. Duckett then brought out the conventional sweep against Axar for a boundary and was unbeaten on 38 at lunch, throwing the Indian spinners off their lengths.
Post lunch, Bumrah trapped Duckett lbw with an in-ducker, which if India have reviewed, would have given them a breakthrough. Pope continued his good work by taking two fours off Ashwin, followed by Duckett fetching two boundaries off Bumrah.
But Bumrah had the last laugh by getting an inswinger to go past Duckett, trying to drive away from the body and send the off-stump on a cartwheel ride. The crowd went berserk as Bumrah was pumped up in his celebrations of dismissing Duckett.
Bumrah was at his lethal best - reversing the ball both ways and also bowling a slower ball to nearly dismiss Pope. Eventually, his inswinger trapped Joe Root lbw in a spell of high-class fast-bowling.
Pope and Jonny Bairstow, who countered Bumrah well by showing the full face of the bat and taking a leg-stump guard, kept the scoreboard moving with a flurry of boundaries. A ball from Jadeja in the 28th over gripped and turned past Bairstow's outside edge.
For the next ball, Bairstow thought it would spin away and shouldered his arms. To his horror, the ball came in with the arm and crashed into the off-stump. Pope got to his fifty off just 54 balls by whipping a full-toss from Ashwin through mid-wicket for four.
Ashwin came back and bowled tirelessly to get his lines back after being unsettled by sweeps from Crawley, Duckett and Pope. He finally got his reward by getting the ball to turn past the bat and took out the off-stump of captain Ben Stokes.
Pope and Foakes went through a period of no boundary for 70 deliveries, before getting boundaries post tea, with India burning a review for an lbw against the former. India tried all five bowlers, but they were unable to separate the duo. Pope eventually got his century by taking three runs through deep mid-wicket off Jadeja, with the Hyderabad crowd giving him a standing ovation.
Pope continued to whip and reverse-sweep at will, and after Axar dropped his catch at the backward point on 110, he was back to punching, reverse-sweeping and even lapping over the keeper for boundaries. Axar struck when he got one to keep low and skid past Foakes’ attempted cut to rattle the off-stump.
Pope was having fun -– lapping over the keeper’s head, flicking sweetly, while Rehan Ahmed was comfortable in punching and pulling the spinners for boundaries till stumps came. With the second new ball to be made available after three overs on day four, India will be aiming to wrap up England’s innings as quickly as possible and try to keep the lead below 150.
Pope and England proved on Day Three that England weren’t any pushovers, something which would give them huge confidence for the rest of the tour. For now, they would aim to take the lead past 200, which could prove to be a tricky proposition for India considering the wear and tear a day four pitch would have.
England 246 and 316/6 in 77 overs (Ollie Pope 148 not out; Ben Duckett 47; Jasprit Bumrah 2-29, Ravichandran Ashwin 2-63) lead India 436 all out in 121 overs (Ravindra Jadeja 87, KL Rahul 86; Joe Root 4-79, Rehan Ahmed 2-105) by 126 runs