On day two, Moeen Ali excelled with the ball on his return to the side, marking his comeback with a brilliant five-wicket haul. For a while India looked likely to concede a first innings deficit, but Cheteshwar Pujara’s potentially series-defining hundred put his side marginally on top going into day three.
Here are the five moments that defined day two.
Kohli reaches 6,000 Test runs
After a fluent start for India, Stuart Broad dismissed both Indian openers in one of his best spells of the summer to leave the tourists 50-2. Enter Virat Kohli.
The game was finely poised, the Indian skipper reached the crease needing just six more runs to become the second fastest Indian batsman to 6,000 Test runs in terms of innings after Sunil Gavaskar. He, of course, did so with ease.
In a low-scoring series, Kohli’s contributions have often been the main difference between the teams – going into this innings, he had scored more than double the runs of any batsman on either side in the series.
If Kohli could replicate the sort of form he had shown earlier in the series and with England only scoring 246 in their first innings, India were eyeing up a sizeable lead.
Kohli doesn’t make the most of a good start, for once
Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara did indeed consolidate. They quietly accumulated runs either side of the lunch interval without offering many chances. Kohli, being in the ominous form that he’s in, was threatening to score another match, and possibly series-defining score. On 142-2, just 104 runs behind England, they were in the driving seat.
It wasn’t to be though for Kohli, as he was dismissed by the 20-year-old Sam Curran. Curran, surely buoyed by his gritty 78 yesterday, bowled with good control, starving the Indian batsmen of runs.
He was gifted the ultimate reward for his efforts as Kohli nibbled at a ball that held its line, well wide of his off stump. England had an opening back into the game.
Moeen justifies his recall for the second time in two days
More than four years and 50 Tests into his international career, there is still a mesmerising lack of clarity and abundance of discussion about what exactly Moeen Ali’s role is in this England side.
He’s opened the batting, floated between five and eight in the middle order, been his side’s primary spinner and been the side’s part-time spinner.
This time, with Adil Rashid also retaining his place in the side, it seemed as though he had been primarily picked for his batting. In fairness to Moeen, his 40 yesterday briefly halted the procession of England batsmen back to the pavilion and with Curran, helped England post a first innings total of some degree of respectability.
His solitary over before the lunch break looked like the classic ‘give the spinner one before lunch’ move. Besides, he was introduced into the attack after both Rashid and Keaton Jennings. Although the over didn’t yield a wicket, it was the most threatening over England bowled since Broad dismissed Shikhar Dhawan an hour or so earlier. It was a sign of things to come.
In the afternoon, Moeen reminded onlookers what a potent bowler he is in English conditions, threatening both edges and deservedly picking up his second five-wicket haul against India at the Ageas Bowl. His spell pinned India back from 181-4 to 227-9 and put England on top for the first time in the Test.
Pujara shows both teams how it’s done
Much has been made about whether the relatively low scores in this series have been down to bowler-friendly conditions or shoddy batsmanship. Conditions today were probably some of the most favourable to batsmen this series, but the ball was moving through the air nonetheless.
Pujara showed the patience you need to score big scores in England and his stoic resistance as wickets fell at the other end gave India a marginal, but perhaps crucial, first innings lead. It was a brilliant innings. The way in which he managed to eek out an hour-long partnership with Jasprit Bumrah, who is not known for his skill with the bat, was particularly impressive.
Much like Kohli’s 149 in the first Test, a century in a low-scoring Test is priceless.
Cook and Jennings survive
Both England openers have seriously struggled for runs this series. As Bumrah and Pujara continued to resist England’s increasingly toothless looking attack, there may have been a tiny part of Jennings’ and Cook’s mind that secretly wanted the Indian pair to reach the close of play just so they could avoid trying to see out an awkward mini-session at the end of the day.
In fading light and with a new ball, Bumrah in particular was a dangerous proposition. For Jennings, losing his wicket this evening could have spelt the end of his Test career.
The mini-session was only four overs long, but that both Cook and Jennings escaped it unscathed will give both them and their team some added confidence going into what will surely be a pivotal third’s day play.
In entertainment terms, this series keeps on delivering.