Ind vs Eng 1st Test | Pope’s unbeaten hundred gives England hope on dramatic day

His unbeaten 148 helps Stokes’ men end the third day 126 ahead with four wickets in hand; he shares a crucial century stand with Foakes after Bumrah and the spin twins have the visitors reeling at 163 for five in the second innings

January 27, 2024 10:48 am | Updated January 28, 2024 10:36 am IST - Hyderabad

England’s Ollie Pope acknowledges the fans in the stands and walks back to the pavilion after stumps on day 3 of the Hyderabad Test on January 27, 2024

England’s Ollie Pope acknowledges the fans in the stands and walks back to the pavilion after stumps on day 3 of the Hyderabad Test on January 27, 2024 | Photo Credit: Reuters

Those who bravely planned to watch the fourth day of the first Test should say: Thank you, Mr. Pope.

So should Ollie Pope’s teammates. It had looked like India could wrap up yet another home Test inside three days: half the England side was back in the pavilion while it still trailed by 27 runs. But a brilliant innings from Pope has allowed England, and their fans who have flown down in large numbers, to hope.

Significantly, Pope would return to the middle on Sunday with the intention to hurt the Indian bowlers more. He was unbeaten on 148 (208b, 17x4) at stumps on the third day at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Saturday.

England, after conceding a lead of 190, is ahead only by 126, but if the lower-order could give Pope the kind of support he received from Ben Foakes (34, 81b, 2x4), that lead could go worryingly up for India on a tiring pitch, notwithstanding the less-than-threatening look sported by the visiting spin attack.

Near flawless innings

This was the fifth Test century for Pope. The England No. 3 could score more, but he will remember this forever.

Not many better hundreds have been made by an overseas batter in these conditions in recent times. It was nearly a flawless innings: he was on 110 when he gave his first chance.

After England lost four wickets while adding 50 runs, Pope’s partnership with Foakes was going to be crucial. The wicketkeeper played his part in the 112-run partnership for the sixth wicket. When he was not watching, in admiration obviously, Pope sweeping or reverse-sweeping with confidence and profit, the wicketkeeper handled the Indian spinners well.

Zak Crawley (31, 33b, 4x4, 1x6) and Ben Duckett (47, 52b, 7x4) had given England the customary Bazball start, adding 45 in 9.2 overs.

Bumrah’s burst

Then, R. Ashwin and Jadeja, and a superb spell of reverse swing from Jasprit Bumrah had England in all sorts of trouble before Pope’s rescue act.

Earlier, in front of another big crowd, India resumed at 421 for seven. After Yashasvi Jaiswal and K.L. Rahul missed out on hundreds on Friday, it was Jadeja’s turn.

He was batting cautiously after starting the day on 81. England opened with the express pace of Mark Wood and the clever, albeit part-time, off-spin of Joe Root. And they succeeded in keeping Jadeja and Axar Patel quiet.

Jadeja’s 290-minute long vigil, however, was ended by Root, who had him lbw. The batter immediately went for the DRS, but, after two successful reviews, this time he had to walk back to the dressing room. Root stuck with his very next ball, which turned enough to sneak through the Bumrah’s gate.

Mohammed Siraj denied him a hat-trick alright, but the Indian innings ended in the following over, as Rehan Ahmed cleaned up Axar.

Root was undoubtedly the pick of the four England spinners. He must be relishing the prospect of bowling in the last innings, thanks of course to Mr. Pope.

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