KL Rahul, Jadeja’s fifties put India in driver’s seat

By BD Naraayannkar

Hyderabad, Jan 26 (UNI) KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja’s half-centuries have put India in a commanding position on Day 2 as the hosts lead England by 175 runs in the first Test at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium here on Friday.

At stumps, India were 421/7 after bundling out England for 246 in their first innings. Jadeja and Axar Patel were batting on 81 and 35, respectively.

Despite picking up three frontline spinners, England allowed three Indian batsmen to notch up three fifties and build five fifty-run partnerships.

Joe Root, a part-time off-spinner, looked the most eligible bowler as he dismissed Yashasvi Jaiswal who added four runs to his overnight 76 runs. He almost had KL Rahul for a duck and trapped Srikar Bharat plumb in front, besides managing to commit some errors from Indian batsmen.

The two inexperienced spinners, Tom Hartley and Rehan Ahmad, weren’t incisive enough and Jack Leach did not bowl much. However, most of the Indian batsmen were dismissed playing big shots.

With two Gujarat boys in the middle, India would hope to extend the lead beyond 200 on the third day’s play to put India on a winning pedestal.

Earlier, India won their first session of the day by scoring 103 runs in 27 overs after losing two prize wickets.

Root, who did not bowl yesterday, delivered in the very first over by removing Jaiswal. The part-timer almost had Rahul off the very next ball, but Ben Foakes squandered a stiff chance, which was given as byes by the straight umpire.

Rahul then did not look back and prolonged the score by making England’s spinners pay for it.

Shubman Gill (23 off 66, 2x4s), on the other hand, went into a shell and lost focus. He almost lost his wicket while trying to break the fetters. He mistimed a shot off Root, which Ben Stokes failed to sight under the glare.

However, Gill failed to capitalize on that opportunity and was caught by Ben Duckett at mid-wicket, when he tried to whip Tom Hartley, giving him his maiden Test wicket.

Rahul, nevertheless, was comfortable scoring runs off Hartley as he essayed two consecutive boundaries, before sweeping Root for another boundary.

Soon after Iyer arrived in the middle, Stokes introduced pacer Mark Wood and started to torment him with a flurry of short-pitch stuff. However, the Mumbaikar survived the annoying period and gained confidence by lofting Hartley for a six.

In the post-lunch session, India scored 87 runs in 26 overs, losing two wickets as Hartley gave a good start to the tourists by dismissing Shreyas Iyer caught at deep midwicket after the Mumbaikar made 35 off 63 balls, with 3 boundaries and a six.

The wicket did not bother Rahul much as he launched a counterattack on England spinners with Jadeja on his side. They put on a brisk 65-run stand for the fifth wicket.

Rahul was dismissed for 86 off 123 balls with 8 boundaries and 2 sixes as he tried to hit Hartley over deep midwicket but was caught by Rehan Ahmad.

Post that, Jadeja and Bharat batted cautiously, and ensured India did not lose further wickets before the second break of the day.

The duo frustrated England for a substantial period, piloting India’s lead beyond the 100 runs mark.

Stokes asked for the new ball, but it was Root who did the trick with his spin and broke the Jadeja-Bharat partnership by trapping the Indian wicketkeeper plumb in front for 41.

In a mixup later, Ravichandran Ashwin fell short of his crease trying to steal a run with both the batsmen ending up at the same end.

Despite the two quick wickets, England could not galvanize their resources to bundle skittle out the tail as Axar Patel joined hands with Jadeja to extend India’s lead.

The duo guided India’s total beyond 400 and then went into the shell towards the end of the day’s play before Axar cut loose to smack two boundaries and a six off the final three balls of the day.

At this point of the match, India has already forced England to play a catch-up game, and it will be interesting to see whether Bazball prevails on The Juggernaut, which the host is without a doubt.

Brief scores: India 421/7 (KL Rahul 86, Ravindra Jadeja 81*; Joe Root 2/77) lead England 246 by 175 runs.

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