|Fourth Specsavers Test, Ageas Bowl (day two)|
|England 246 (Curran 78) & 6-0|
|India 273 (Pujara 132*, Moeen 5-63)|
|England trail by 21 runs|
Moeen Ali’s 5-63 led England’s fightback on the second day of the fourth Test against India in Southampton.
The off-spinner ran through the India lower order as the tourists lost six wickets for 53 runs to slip from 142-2 to 195-8.
However, India were hauled to 273 by an unbeaten 132 from Cheteshwar Pujara, who added 78 for the final two wickets with Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah.
That gave the visitors a first-innings lead of 27 after England were bowled out for 246 on day one.
Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings came through four overs at the end of the day as England closed on 6-0, 21 behind.
It left the match and the series tantilisingly poised. England lead 2-1 and can seal the series with victory on the south coast, while India must avoid defeat to keep the contest alive going into the final match at The Oval.
To add to the intrigue, the Southampton pitch is showing signs of sharp turn, potentially aiding India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin as well as England pair Moeen and Adil Rashid in the fourth innings.
Moeen’s love of Southampton
Moeen is playing in his first Test since March and, like Sam Curran on day one, has justified his recall.
Moeen was dropped after a poor winter in which he took five wickets at an average of 126.80.
However, in contrast to his struggles abroad, he has a fine record at home. Indeed, on this ground and against the same opponents four years ago, he returned match figures of 8-129.
Having made 40 in England’s first-innings 246, he bowled beautifully, fizzing the ball into the footholes to take all his five wickets in a 10-over spell either side of tea.
Rishabh Pant was lbw for a curious 29-ball duck and Hardik Pandya tamely chipped to short mid-wicket.
Ashwin thoughtlessly bottom-edged a reverse sweep on to his stumps, Mohammed Shami was bowled first ball and, after surviving for 40 minutes, Ishant inside-edged to a juggling Cook at short leg.
Pujara and tail defy England
Pujara was left out of India’s defeat in the first Test, but returned to form with 72 in the second innings of their third Test win at Trent Bridge.
For a while on Friday, he was the support act in a stand of 92 with captain Virat Kohli, who edged to first slip off Curran for 46 to begin India’s slide.
While wickets were falling around him, Pujara remained patient. Very occasionally he drove through the covers, but often his scoring came through wristy flicks on the leg side or dabbed cuts to third man.
Only when he was joined by Ishant, then Bumrah, did he show more intent in two chaotic partnerships that frustrated England in the evening sunshine.
Pujara survived a review for lbw off Moeen on 99 and, next ball, lofted down the ground to complete his 15th Test century.
At that point, the total was 232 and Bumrah had not faced a delivery. Over the course of the next 11.5 overs – which included England taking the second new ball – Pujara opened his shoulders and farmed the strike.
Bumrah provided brave assistance, clinging on for 70 minutes before gloving Stuart Broad to first slip to leave Pujara unbeaten on 132.
The curious case of Ben Stokes
Before this match began, England captain Joe Root said that all-rounder Ben Stokes was not “100% fit” to bowl because of a knee injury.
That did not seem to be a concern for England during a morning when Broad bowled beautifully to remove openers KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan.
When Pujara and Kohli were together, the sight of Jennings bowling his medium pace suggested that Stokes would not be able to bowl at all.
However, he was introduced after lunch and was excellent, hooping an inswinger to trap Ajinkya Rahane lbw.
He did not bowl again after that seven-over spell, even when England were desperately trying to wrap up the India tail.
It addition, it was a difficult day for James Anderson, who returned figures of 0-50 and even surrendered the second new ball to Curran.
‘A lead of 240 would be enough for England’ – what they said
England’s Moeen Ali on Sky Sports: “I know deep down I am not a perfect spinner, but I know on my day I can bowl a side out.
“If we can get to 300 ahead that would be a good lead. It will be difficult, though.”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan on BBC Test Match Special: “I think 200 would be very competitive.
“From an England perspective, they will put another heavy roller on the wicket – and if they bat 90 overs tomorrow they will be 240 ahead and I’m pretty sure that will be enough.”
- Moeen Ali’s 5-63 was his second successive five-wicket haul in a Test against India at Southampton, after taking 6-67 in 2014.
- In reaching six, Virat Kohli passed 6,000 Test runs in 119 innings, the second quickest for India after Sunil Gavaskar’s 117. Sachin Tendulkar took 120.
- Rishabh Pant’s 29-ball duck was the joint third longest for India, matching Irfan Pathan and Suresh Raina.