Buttler, seamers give England upper hand over India
Ben Stokes landed India a double blow towards the end of the day. (Getty Images)

A day ago, India had brought England down to their knees. But as has been the pattern in this series, England’s knee-jerk reaction has mostly been a counter-attacking one. This was evident once again on the second day of the fifth Test where England’s tail wriggled them out of trouble with Jos Buttler leading the way once again.

England’s leading-run getter in this series (349 and counting), Buttler brought up his second half-century of the series and forged two crucial partnerships down the order to steer his side to 332 in the first innings, way more than England would have hoped for at the start of play. India in reply, would witness two familiar patterns of their own – a bad start to the innings followed by a small recovery dented by a flurry of wickets.

India, from a point where they seemed to be putting up a courageous show, let the advantage slip away and finished the day at a worrying 174/6. At 70/1, KL Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara looked in control, but once Sam Curran produced a Wasim Akram-like delivery to clean up the opener, and James Anderson followed with back-to-back dismissals of Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane (0), it signalled the beginning of that same pattern.

The knockout punch was landed 20 minutes before close of play when Virat Kohli, one short of his fourth half-century of the series, edged Ben Stokes to his counterpart Joe Root at second slip. In his next over, Stokes dealt India another blow with Rishabh Pant edging to Alastair Cook. His was a perfect follow up act to Anderson, Broad and Curran’s probing spells. They produced a riveting spell of fast bowling that saw India score three runs in 33 deliveries.

Kohli watched from the other end India lose Pujara and Rahane in a span of two runs. Two batsmen whom he would have expected a lot from on this surface. At 103/4, he was joined by debutant Hanuma Vihari, who had the iffiest of starts to his Test career, surviving two leg-before shouts. He was stone dead on the first, but England opted not to go for the review. The one they went ahead with showed the ball going over. Perfect Test match drama.

Following Kohli the master from the other end gave the 24-year-old confidence. Despite that, twice in one over did Vihari top-edge Stokes and was rewarded with a six and a four. Fortunately, India still have him out there in the middle, but with the lower order exposed and the last recognised batsman in Ravindra Jadeja already out there, anything above 200-220 would be bonus for India.

They were jolted early, again. Stuart Broad struck off his first ball to send back Shikhar Dhawan. He sent in an inswinger first up, and Dhawan, prodding forward, was not able to get in line and was given out leg-before. Pujara quickly got into his elements with three boundaries, a flick, and a couple of regal-looking drives; all well-timed.

Rahul, for the first time in the series, batted with intent and he was willing to take the risk. He cut close to his body. This was the most confident Rahul had looked this series. But all that hard work was undone in the final session in which India lost five wickets for 121 runs.

India must be tired by the number of time they’ve had to see Buttler dig England out of trouble. The trend continued here. The wicketkeeper batsman, celebrating his 28th birthday put on 33 with Adil Rashid and another 98 with Broad and frustrated India.

Ishant Sharma troubled Rashid with his swing and induced false drives from Buttler. But the edges hardly arrived. Rashid, having struck a couple of boundaries survived a close shout off Ishant, but Bumrah avenged him by pinning him in front of the stumps.

Buttler got a move on once Rashid exited, but there was nothing extravagant. Despite a spread-out field, Buttler was able to pierce the gaps and get the boundaries. He played away from his body but nullified the risk by his brilliant timing. Buttler was pleasantly surprised to see Broad regain his batting confidence who contributed with a plucky 37.

With a bid to get runs quickly, Buttler ran hard between the wickets, and Broad began slashing deliveries outside off. Post a tiring first session, it didn’t take India long to wrap things up. Rahul, at long-on, took a stunning catch running behind for his 13th of the series and to end Broad’s promising stay in the middle. Buttler fell 11 short of his second century of the series, giving Ravindra Jadeja his fourth of the innings.

Brief score: India 174/6 (Virat Kohli 49, Cheteshwar Pujara 37, James Anderson 2/20), trail England 332 all out (Jos Buttler 89, 71) by 158 runs at stumps on Day 2.