A century-run stand for the fourth wicket between Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane propelled the Indian team to a 154-run lead over England in the second innings at the Home of Cricket. The team was cruising along until the final hour of Day 4, losing their plot from 155/3 to 181/6, courtesy of Moeen Ali's double strike at the fag end of the day.
The visiting side started the day trailing by 27 runs after England managed to gain a slender lead in the first innings courtesy of a masterclass from skipper Joe Root. The opening combination of KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma have been in sublime form all through the series. While Rahul was coming into this innings after notching up a scintillating hundred (129), Rohit showcased his class with a well-compiled 83 to set up a strong foundation in the first innings.
However, the Indian team were jolted early in the second innings as Mark Wood made optimum use of the overcast condition on offer along with the variable bounce in the surface to send the openers back to the pavilion with the scores level.
Coming into bowl in the sixth over of the innings, Wood consistently bowled a probing line and length outside the off-stump to trouble the opening pair. The tall fast bowler finally reaped dividends for his consistency as Rahul was undone by the ball leaving the right-hander and offered a simple catch to wicket-keeper Jos Butler behind the stumps.
The onus of guiding the team to set up the game with the bat relied heavily on Rohit Sharma. However, after smashing a six to level the score with the pull shot, the flamboyant batter succumbed to a similar delivery as he was caught on the deep square leg boundary by Moeen Ali a couple of balls later.
With the middle order struggling for runs in the series and twin strikes early in the innings, Wood placed the home team in a commanding position in the first hour of the play. To make things worse, the visiting side were dealt with a body blow as Virat Kohli too was dismissed cheaply courtesy of a beauty from Sam Curran.
Two of India's mainstays in the longest format of the game, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, joined forces with the team tottering at 55 for the loss of three wickets. While Pujara was rock solid in his defence and blunted the England bowling unit, Rahane too found his groove and started accumulating the ones and the twos.
The vice-captain was benefitted as Jonny Bairstow dropped a low catch off Moeen Ali to give him a lease of life on 31. With the surface not offering much swing and seam movement, the bowling unit of the home team failed to create inroads post the first session.
Jonny Bairstow puts Rahane down at point and gives the Indian vice-captain a life.— Sony Sports (@SonySportsIndia) August 15, 2021
Tune into Sony Six (ENG), Sony Ten 3 (HIN), Sony Ten 4 (TAM, TEL) & SonyLIV (https://t.co/AwcwLCPFGm ) now! 📺#ENGvINDOnlyOnSonyTen #BackOurBoys #AjinkyaRahane #JonnyBairstow pic.twitter.com/8lBRqbejjn
While they deployed a strange strategy by bowling a barrage of short deliveries targeting the body in the second session, the slowness of the surface and the soft nature of the ball did not unsettle the duo.
They steadied the innings with a 100-run partnership for the fourth wicket to guide the Indian team to safety. However, England bounced back with quick wickets in the final hour of the day as Pujara was dismissed on 45 from a rising delivery off Mark Wood and the off-spinner scalped the prized wicket of Rahane for 61 runs with the new ball around the corner.
The Indian team failed to capitalise on the strong foundation laid by the middle order and bat England out of the game. They ended the day on 181/6 with Rishabh Pant and Ishant Sharma in the middle. With four wickets in hand and a fighting lead, the match looks evenly poised with all three results possible heading into the last day of the Test match.