Rajkot: England consolidated their position on the second morning of the opening Test against India and looked on course for a massive first-innings total, with Moeen Ali completing a fine century here on Thursday.
The visitors, resuming on 311 for four after opting to bat, strengthened their position by advancing to 450 for six wickets at the end of the first session by adding 139 runs in just 30 overs. At lunch, overnight not out batsman Ben Stokes (84), who has hit 11 fours and a six in his 136-ball innings, and Chris Woakes (4) were at the crease.
The batsmen out in the session was last evening’s unbeaten batsman Ali, who duly completed his career’s fourth Test century after being one short of the coveted landmark at stumps on day one, and Jonny Bairstow who made a quick 46 off 57 balls. Both wickets were claimed by pace bowlers Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, but overall the Indian attack looked listless on a track that still looked good for batting.
Ali was out for 117 in a somewhat fortuitous manner for the home side that looked bereft of ideas as he shouldered arms to an angled-in ball from Shami and lost his off stump. Wicketkeeper Bairstow chased a wide ball from Yadav and was caught behind low down to his right after Wriddhiman Saha had grassed two catches off Stokes in successive overs off the same bowler earlier.
Right-handed Ali started with a flurry of fours this morning, three of those in one over from the wayward Yadav, before being dismissed. Ali, the second century maker in the innings after no. 3 batsman Joe Root yesterday, batted for over four and a half hours and struck 13 fours. Ali, who added 179 runs for the fourth wicket with Root yesterday, put on a further 62 in 87 minutes with the left-handed Stokes for the fifth wicket.
India’s woes continued with Bairstow joining all rounder Stokes as the two attacked the bowlers especially spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Amit Mishra with gusto. Stokes and Bairstow put on a brisk stand of 99 for the sixth wicket in just 80 minutes and 127 balls against some mediocre bowling performance before the latter got out chasing a wide ball.
Ashwin, although getting some purchase out of the wicket, could not add to his tally of two and bowled an expensive and disappointing spell of 7-0-30-0. Mishra, under-bowled by his captain Virat Kohli yesterday, was given a long spell but looked pretty innocuous and was smacked once for a straight six by Bairstow.
To make matters worse the Indian catching remained sloppy with wicketkeeper Saha putting down Stokes in successive overs off Yadav in his second spell, when the batsman was on 60 and 61 respectively. They were diving leg-side efforts but should have been pouched by someone with the gloves on.