Jos Buttler and Sam Curran once again showcased their grit as the hosts built a handsome 233-run second innings lead at stumps on day three of the fourth Test here on Saturday.
Buttler’s gutsy knock of 69 and Curran’s unbeaten 37 enabled the hosts to put up a fighting 260 for eight to leave England in the driver’s seat.
It could turn out to be a tricky chase for the Indian line-up especially with the track being two paced and the visitors’ struggles against Moeen Ali.
Buttler received good support from the stodgy Ben Stokes (30, 110 balls) adding 56 runs for the sixth wicket and 55 runs for the seventh wicket with the ever-improving Curan.
This was Buttler’s ninth Test fifty and he showed a lot of application even though he was troubled by the initial spell from Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami.
In fact, England were in trouble at 122 for five when Joe Root was run out for 48. The lead was not even 100 runs but it was Buttler, who took the attack back to the opposition camp as Ravichandran Ashwin (35-7-78-1) despite being economical was not half as effective as Ali.
His only success was Stokes, who has been showing his defensive traits in this series with some dogged resistance. He was finally out caught in the slips to Ajinkya Rahane after a stand that lasted for 22 overs.
Buttler however continued to defy the Indian bowlers in company of Curran as they also consumed nearly 17 overs.
Finally, it was the second new ball that did the trick as Ishant angled one into Buttler to trap him leg before.
Earlier, India maintained a slight upper hand during the first two sessions on Saturday morning.
A well-set Root was back in the pavilion for 48 after Shami’s direct throw found him short of crease before tea.
Having removed Keaton Jennings (36) at the stroke of lunch, Mohammed Shami (2/40) was on a hat-trick when he removed Jonny Bairstow (0) off the very first ball post break. However Stokes and Root negotiated the Indian bowling well for the next 14 overs before the skipper didn’t ground his bat properly while sprinting towards the striker’s end.
Starting from overnight 6-0, England made a slow start with openers Jennings and Alastair Cook (12) made a slow start, putting on 24 for the first wicket. They were more intent on staying at the wicket, even as Indian pacers didn’t get as much purchase they did in the first innings.
Despite slow proceedings, Bumrah got the breakthrough in the 13th over as Cook edged to KL Rahul at second slip, who held a juggling catch on third attempt.
Surprisingly, Moeen Ali (9) was given a promotion and batted at number three, albeit managing only nine runs for the second-wicket partnership.
Ishant nicked him off in the 16th over, with Rahul holding another low catch at second slip. Replays suggested that he managed to get fingers under the ball, and Ali had to walk back.
It was his 11th catch in the series, the most for an Indian fielder in England, going past Rahul Dravid’s 10 catches in the 2002 four-Test series here.
Root then came out to bat at number four, and along with Jennings, pulled his side out of trouble.
While the latter dug in deep and fought hard to preserve his wicket, the former was easier on the eyes and punished any loose balls. Root hit four fours during his 50-ball stay thus far.
The duo put on 50 from 84 balls for the third wicket as England started to recover but Shami left them to do it all over again right at the break.