Moeen Ali recorded his second successive five-wicket Test haul at the Ageas Bowl but was unable to stop Cheteshwar Pujara edging a mid-match advantage for India.
Moeen (5-63), back for his first Test in five months and at the venue where he took 6-67 over these same opponents four years ago, put England fleetingly on course for a first-innings lead.
Pujara (132 not out) prevented that, though, constructing a near five-hour century – his 15th in Tests and fifth against England – as India reached 273 all out in reply to 246 by stumps on day two.
India’s first innings was not an exact action replay of England’s in this fourth Test, but there were distinct similarities as many of the specialist batsmen failed to fulfil their brief – and Pujara was left to eke out 78 runs in stands with numbers 10 and 11.
Moeen put the tourists in a spin either side of tea, taking four wickets for eight runs in 16 balls as they faltered from 142-2 to 195-8.
England’s new-ball pair had begun moderately in their four overs the previous evening, but were re-engaged in the hope of much better on a sunny morning.
Stuart Broad (3-63) delivered with the wickets of both openers.
KL Rahul fell lbw on the front-foot defence, and the patient Shikhar Dhawan pushed out at one from round the wicket and was caught-behind by a tumbling Jos Buttler.
A 92-run stand followed, with Pujara more convincing than Virat Kohli – who moved past 6,000 Test runs with a chisel through the vacant gully off James Anderson, and used the edge almost as much as the middle until he followed a straight ball slanted across him to be caught at slip off Sam Curran.
It was the belated introduction of Ben Stokes which first started to make things happen more quickly for England.
Pujara, on 50, and Ajinkya Rahane escaped half-chances in his first two overs. But Joe Root’s drop at second slip was much less costly than Buttler’s failure to lay a glove on Pujara’s low edge – because Rahane was soon lbw toppling over in defence to Stokes.
Pujara took on a Stokes short ball and was hit on the helmet, a blow which brought a near 10-minute delay for a concussion test and change of headgear.
It did not perturb the imperturbable, though, and India’s number three was in no way jolted out of his chosen tempo.
Even Moeen’s sudden rush of wickets could not ruffle him. Rishabh Pant went to the last ball before the break, the eighth lbw departure of the match, when he missed one sliding on to hit leg-stump to go for a 29-ball duck.
Hardik Pandya’s counter-attack plan brought him one boundary before he clipped Moeen to a diving Root at short midwicket. Then the off-spinner put himself on a hat-trick.
Virat Kohli's milestones in Test cricket:— Sampath Bandarupalli (@SampathStats) August 31, 2018
27 innings for the first 1000 runs
26 innings from 1000 to 2000 runs
20 innings from 2000 to 3000 runs
16 innings from 3000 to 4000 runs
16 innings from 4000 to 5000 runs
14 innings from 5000 to 6000 runs#ENGvIND
Ravi Ashwin was culpable with a bizarre attempt at a reverse-sweep, bottom-edged on to his unguarded leg stump, and Mohammed Shami lost his off-bail first ball.
Ishant Sharma kept out the hat-trick ball at the start of Moeen’s next over, and stayed put to help add 32 valuable runs until he was well-caught by Alastair Cook at short-leg.
Pujara was joined on 96, when India were still 19 runs behind, by number 11 Jasprit Bumrah. But he completed his 210-ball century with a chip over Moeen’s head – and remained in control to extend England’s frustrations with the second new ball until Bumrah failed to deal with Broad’s extra bounce and was caught at slip.
That allowed for four overs in which Cook and Keaton Jennings survived on six for none.
India had collapsed to 195-8 in the Southampton Test thanks to off-spinner Moeen Ali, who snared five wickets. But Pujara found able support in No10 batsman Ishant Sharma (14 off 27 balls) and Jasprit Bumrah (6 off 24) to hit a superb century that dug India out of a deep hole.
Pujara’s ton was his 15th in Test cricket and arguably one of his finest as it came with India on the verge of losing the series as they trailed England on Friday with a 1-2 deficit to contend with as well.
Here’s an analysis of Pujara’s superlative century.
RUNS: 132 not out
BALLS FACED: 257
STRIKE RATE: 51.3
Cheteshwar Pujara...— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) August 31, 2018
15th Test 100
5th vs England
1st in England
5th away Test 100
1st in 2018
45th in fc cricket#EngvInd
Batsmen fell around him like nine pins but Pujara batted at his own pace. Even when India collapsed from 142-2 to 195-8, Pujara kept his cool. The moment he received half-decent support from Ishant, Pujara went up a gear. When Rishabh Pant was out for a 29-ball duck with India five down, Pujara was on 70. But the Saurashtra batsman didn’t lose his nerves and cashed in once batsmen at the other end showed some resolve.
Batting with tail-enders while facing a deficit and with the series on the line takes a lot of heart and application. Pujara showed exceptional game sense to farm the strike and hit the boundaries to first take India to England’s total of 246 and then beyond it. Tailenders Ishant and Bumrah did their bit by hanging around but Pujara did the heavy lifting, running as hard between the wickets as he ever has in his career.
Any kid thinking I don’t have enough talent to make it, look at Pujara, that’s your role model right there.#Grit— Sanjay Manjrekar (@sanjaymanjrekar) August 31, 2018
He did make a couple of mistakes while rotating the strike. He took two to reach his century off the final ball of the 73rd over, leaving No11 Bumrah to face the next over with India still in the deficit. Bumrah faced the first ball of the over on six occasions, including against the new ball, and that wasn’t the smartest strategy. It got the job done but wasn’t a safe option.
One of the finest Test centuries from Pujara. With the series on the line and India’s batting imploding on the second day, the match could have slipped out of India’s grasp on Friday. But Pujara ensured India are very much in the hunt.
India B have beaten Australia A by nine wickets in the one-day quadrangular series final at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Wednesday.
The match winner for India was in-form captain Manish Pandey who blasted 73 not out, following on his unbeaten century against the same opponent just a few days previous.
The Australians lost the toss and were sent in to bat first.
However, after being 4-192, Australia A lost their last six wickets for 33 runs to be dismissed for 225 in the 48th over.
Spinners Shreyas Gopal (3-50) and Deepak Hooda (2-41) claimed multiple wickets, as did fast bowlers Navdeep Saini (2-33) and Siddarth Kaul (2-24).
In reply, Mayank Agarwal (69), Shubman Gill (66 not out) and Pandey all posted fifties as India B reached the target one wicket down in just the 37th over.
Pandey’s effort completed a stunning double as he knocked up 117 not out against Australia A in the preliminary rounds. He fittingly completed the rout with a straight driven six over the sight-screen.
Agar claimed Australia’s only wicket.
Australia A’s first four day match – against India A – will be at the same venue commencing on September 2.