Hyderabad, Jan 26: All of India's batters, barring Ravichandran Ashwin, had got starts, but K.L. Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja went to smash half-centuries to help India grab first-innings lead of 175 runs, ending Day Two of the first innings at 421/7 in 110 overs. At the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, India began Day Two with 127 runs behind England’s 246 and lost Yashasvi Jaiswal for 80 in the opening over. Rahul slammed his 14th Test fifty to top score with 86 off 123 balls, combining patience, poise and good-looking ten boundaries while keeping the scoreboard moving.
Jadeja then took over the scoring mantle to make his 20th Test fifty and be 81 not out off 155 balls at the end of Day Two. He hit nine delightful boundaries while stitching an unbroken partnership of 63 off 117 balls for the eighth wicket with Axar Patel (35 not out off 62 balls) to extend India's lead well beyond 150.
The pitch offered some turn throughout the day, but England's spinners weren’t consistent enough in line and length to build pressure, meaning they were made to toil hard by India. After Rahul fell, they got some control, but Jadeja and Axar being unmoved meant Friday became India's day.
In the morning, Joe Root, who didn’t bowl a single ball on the first day, got Jaiswal out by deceiving the left-handed opener in pace and flight, giving a return catch to the part-time off-spinner. England almost got the wicket of Rahul on nought, but Ben Foakes dropped a tough chance off Root.
Rahul got going with back-to-back fours via on-drives off debutant Tom Hartley, before rolling his wrists over to sweep Root for a boundary. Shubman Gill struggled to get going and was constantly defending in front of his body while getting caught at the crease and unable to rotate strike. In a bid to release the pressure, Gill skied one but Ben Stokes lost track of the ball while running back from mid-on.
His very tentative innings, especially against spin, came to an end when he flicked straight to mid-wicket, giving Hartley his first Test wicket. Mark Wood was given a short spell to bounce out Iyer, but Rahul took three boundaries off him via inside edge, square punch and a controlled pull.
England captain Ben Stokes brought back Hartley and Rehan Ahmed, with the latter able to trouble Iyer with his leg-breaks. But the right-handed batter feasted on whenever the duo erred, pulling Hartley’s short ball for six.
He followed it up by heaving and driving down the ground off Rehan for two fours and even cut Root through extra cover for another boundary. At the other end, Rahul brought up his fifty in his 50th Test match, with his knock’s standout feature being at ease in scoring against spinners and willing to switch between back-foot and front-foot to keep the scoreboard moving.
England began the afternoon session with Rehan having Iyer slog-sweeping a googly straight to deep mid-wicket, ending the 64-run stand for the fourth wicket. But Rahul continued to build on his good work in the morning, cutting and sweeping the leg-spinner for fours.
Rahul picked Rehan’s lengths well -- dancing down the pitch to hit a six over long-on and going on the backfoot to pull over mid-wicket for another maximum -– which put India into the lead.
From the other end, Jadeja capitalised on the England spinners being all over the pitch and taking boundaries for fun. He even got caught at forward short leg decision to change and continued to take runs against England’s inconsistent bowling.
The 65-run stand between Rahul and Jadeja ended when the former rocked back to pull a short ball from Ahmed and holed out to deep mid-wicket, falling 14 runs short of a second Test century at home. Rahul’s high-class knock at 86 off 123 balls was the fifth time an Indian batter perished while trying to play an attacking shot in the innings.
Post that, England finally managed to exert some control as Jadeja-Bharat's partnership for the sixth wicket added just 21 runs in 11.1 overs till tea arrived. In the final session, Root had some really close lbw shouts against the duo being turned down.
Bharat overcame an iffy start to take boundaries on short balls from Root and Rehan. Jadeja got his 20th Test fifty after playing 10 dot balls on 49 while Bharat slog-swept Root for four after England took the second new ball. But Bharat fell nine runs short of fifty as he was trapped lbw on the sweep against Root.
England got another wicket when Ravichandran Ashwin had a mix-up with Jadeja and was run out for one. Jadeja and Axar took boundaries off the bad balls, with the latter taking Hartley for two fours and a six on the last three balls to end the day where India had all but batted England out of the game.
With three wickets still in hand, as well as Jadeja and Axar at the crease, India will be aiming to stretch the lead as much as possible on Saturday and pile on the misery on England’s indifferent bowling attack.
England 246 trail India 421/7 in 110 overs (K.L. Rahul 86, Ravindra Jadeja 81 not out; Joe Root 2-77, Tom Hartley 2-131) by 175 runs