England need a rescue act

The Indian players celebrate after the fall of Moeen Ali
The Indian players celebrate after the fall of Moeen Ali
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England were left needing a lengthy rescue act by Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow after being reduced to 103 for five by India on day two of the Second Test.

After Moeen Ali’s three quick wickets included that of Virat Kohli (167) and helped to limit India to 455 all out in Vizag, England faced a mighty tough task to stay competitive on a pitch all set to deteriorate more quickly than its predecessor for last week’s drawn first Test.

Sure enough, after losing both openers in demoralising circumstances and despite a skilful half-century from Joe Root (53), they were in big trouble by stumps - Ravi Ashwin in his element with sharp turn and variable bounce already at his disposal.

It was pace that made the first incision, however, Alastair Cook for just two when his off-stump was snapped in half by a delivery from Mohammad Shami which held its line to bowl him through the gate on the defence.

Then after Root and Haseeb Hameed tried to dig in either side of tea, the teenage opener went in a run-out mix-up.

Hameed was on an unlucky 13 when he was sent back for a second run, after Root clipped Ravindra Jadeja into the leg-side, and fine work by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha to flick the ball back to dislodge a bail from a mediocre throw completed the dismissal.

It was the type of self-inflicted mishap that can often feature in collective downfall.

Root cleared his mind to complete a 91-ball 50, but by then had also lost Ben Duckett - who stayed leg-side in front-foot defence at Ashwin and did not cover the turn which bowled him off-stump.

All-out defence was not going to work on its own in such difficult circumstances, and that truth was the partial mitigation for Root’s departure - trying to stop Ashwin dictate as he went up the wicket but failing to get to the pitch and holing out at deep mid-off.

India varied the torment by turning to debutant off-spinner Jayant Yadav, who had the confidence to convince Kohli to call a review for lbw against Moeen pushing a long way forward - and was rewarded with his maiden wicket as the all-rounder went for just a single, and England had lost three for eight runs.

It was to the significant credit of Stokes and Bairstow that they then managed to stave off further loss in 50 minutes to the close - although the former did have one uncanny stroke of fortune on three when he missed a back-foot force at Jayant and survived when the ball hit the off-bail but failed to budge it this time.

Moeen (three for 98) had threatened to bowl England back into the equation when he took the key wicket of Kohli and then added two more in three deliveries, after India resumed on 311 for four.

But Ashwin (58) engineered an eighth-wicket stand of 64 with Jayant either side of lunch.

Kohli appeared to have his sights set on what would have been his third Test double-hundred of the year, but his was the first of three wickets to fall for 12 runs.

Stokes dropped a sharp chance offered by Ashwin on 17 at slip off Moeen only to instead snap up the greater prize in the same position when Kohli edged a drive next ball.

Moeen doubled up immediately after mid-morning drinks, finding enough turn to have Saha lbw on the back foot; then Jadeja was gone for a second-ball duck - lbw too, albeit to a delivery simulation depicted missing the left-hander’s leg-stump.

Jadeja had already walked off without consulting DRS.

India were faltering, after their captain’s near seven-hour innings which contained 18 fours from 267 balls, but Ashwin took advantage of his let-off in an 86-ball 50 before Stokes had him caught-behind driving.

Adil Rashid took his first wicket of the innings, Jayant aiming a big hit to leg but instead presenting the easiest of catches to point.

Umesh Yadav and Shami then grabbed what they could in a carefree last-wicket stand, before India got hold of the ball for phase two of their anticipated domination here.