Pant (101) and Washington (60 batting) drag India, tottering at 146 for six, to strong position after Anderson, Stokes and Leach threaten in day’s first half
James Anderson and Ben Stokes bowled their hearts out to push India onto the back foot. But Rishabh Pant’s methodical madness and Washington Sundar’s calm class changed the complexion of the fourth and final Test, India finishing the second day with a lead of 89 runs.
Thanks to the 113-run association for the seventh wicket between the pair on Friday, India breezed past England’s first-innings total of 205. With Axar Patel lending support to Washington (60 batting) after Pant’s dismissal for 101, India went to stumps at 294 for seven.
When Washington had walked out to join Pant 25 minutes before tea, India was tottering at 146 for six. They relied on their defence and rotated the strike till almost an hour after tea.
The waiting game
Pant waited for the England attack, which had entered the game a bowler short, to lose its zing. Once India had trudged close to England’s total and with the new ball imminent, Pant switched gears flawlessly. It started with two fours in three balls off Stokes to help India level the scores and the next over saw him repeat the dose against Joe Root’s part-time off-spin.
By the time James Anderson — who till then had conceded just 19 runs off his 17 overs — ran in with the second red cherry, India had raced to a lead of 18 runs. The next passage of play saw the pendulum swing strongly in India’s favour.
Pant welcomed Anderson with a lofted off-drive and a swat through the covers off the first two deliveries. The first ball of the next over saw Pant despatching Stokes through mid-wicket from outside off. While Pant was taking calculated risks, Washington crunched two more boundaries in the over, his cut through point being the highlight.
Pant’s improvisation reached its peak when he reverse-ramped Anderson for a four over slips to enter the 90s. It was fitting then that he sent Root packing over the mid-wicket fence in the next over to raise his bat for a memorable hundred — his first at home and third overall. After being patient for his first 50 (82 balls), Pant took just 33 balls for his second.
Despite Root latching on to a sharp chance in the 85th over to end Pant’s onslaught and give Anderson a reason to smile, Washington not only passed his fifty but also ensured along with Axar that England’s bowlers will continue to face the heat on the third morning.
For the better part of the day, however, England was in control as Anderson, Stokes and Jack Leach bowled tight lines. While Leach accounted for Cheteshwar Pujara for the fourth time in the series, captain Virat Kohli fiddled at a short-ball from Stokes to nick behind.
At 40 for three, the onus was on Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane to resurrect the innings. Rohit respected the bowlers while Rahane got off the blocks with a flurry of boundaries. But in the last over before lunch, Rahane poked at one from Anderson that pitched in the perfect corridor.
When Rohit (49) couldn’t tackle Stokes’ reverse-swing an hour after lunch and R. Ashwin fell to a soft dismissal not long afterwards, India was in a real spot of bother. But Pant and Washington ensured the home camp was full of smiles at the end of the day.