India vs England: Oval Test nicely poised as India finish second day 56 runs behind England | Cricket News – Times of India

There were no demons in the pitch and no gods came to the rescue of India’s bowlers at the Oval on Friday. Except, perhaps, just once.
Minutes before tea, just before the second ball of the 68th over, with Ollie Pope (81 off 159 balls; 6×4) and Moeen Ali (35 off 71) having set up camp in the middle and England’s lead threatening to balloon, Virat Kohli interrupted proceedings and called bowler Ravindra Jadeja over for a lengthy exchange.
Kohli was animated while putting his point across, gesticulating, doing all the talking. Jadeja simply nodded in agreement. He was nodding to himself even when returning to his mark, as if convinced by whatever ploy had just been discussed. The left-handed Moeen was on strike and batting beautifully.
Jadeja’s move was a nothing ball, a slower, wider, flighted delivery. Moeen’s counter was a nothing shot, the batsman taking the bait and going for an expansive drive, only to slice it up in the air into extra cover’s hands.
Jadeja, spring in his step and glee in his eyes, walked over to Kohli with a knowing smile. Kohli sported his trademark smirk, and suddenly, against the run of play, India had an opening again.
On a day of ceaseless toil, it was manna from heaven, one of those freebies India needed desperately just as the shoulders were starting to droop and the pacers starting to tire.
With nothing happening in the air or off the pitch, both the strengths and limitations of India’s attack were shown up. All the seamers, apart from Bumrah, struggled to keep a lid on the scoring and toiled hard to earn their moments. But toil they did, and the rewards were sweet.
That Moeen dismissal, and the one of Pope that followed in a rare high for Shardul Thakur with the ball, was pivotal. Eventually England’s lead was restricted to a seemingly manageable 99, that too because of a frustratingly quickfire halfcentury from Woakes (50 off 60; 11×4).
Left to fend off England’s seamers for around an hour, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul were off to a shaky start. The nerves jangled, edges flew, the footwork was indecisive as Woakes magically found some movement again.
Eventually, England’s shoddy slip catching, in particular a blind-sighted Rory Burns, generously offered Rohit a life and the nerves eased. Rahul, in particular, played some pleasing shots as India’s openers did extremely well to take stumps at 43/0. India are still trailing by 56 runs.
It had seemed India’s morning when England were reduced to 62/5 as Umesh Yadav (3/76) got rid of nightwatchman Overton and then Dawid Malan to stake a claim for more regular appearances for India. It was then that Pope decided to step up and make amends in what has been a year of meagre returns for him. He took the attack to India and added 77 valuable runs with Bairstow (37 off 77; 7×4).
In the first hour England scored 25 runs from 13 overs and lost two wickets. After drinks Pope and Bairstow launched a terrific counter-attack, adding 61 runs from only 12 overs. The game turned. The 31st over opened the floodgates, Pope hitting Shardul for four boundaries as the bowler erred in length and also strayed on to the pads.
Pope had averaged only 21.63 this year before this innings, though his first-class average at the Oval was over 100 coming into Friday. He grew in stature at the crease, punishing anything full or short while scoring in the ‘V’ to most good length deliveries.

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