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Report: England vs India, 5th Test - Day 2

Joe Root slams fifth half-century of the series to put England in command

England reached 385-7 to lead India by 237 runs at stumps on day two to maintain control of the fifth Test at the Oval, thanks to an unbeaten 92 from Joe Root on Saturday.

It is Joe Root’s eighth test half century. His 93-ball half-century was his fifth of the series, one in every match to replicate a feat achieved previously by only two Englishmen - Wally Hammond (1938-39 vs SA) and Peter May (1955 vs SA).

He is at the crease with Chris Jordan, 19 not out.

However, India claimed four wickets in the second session to bring them back in the reckoning. But Joe Root, who has emerged as a vital cog in the English lineup, once again pushed them on to the back-foot. While he was content playing the supporting role when Jos Buttler milked the Indian bowlers, he took control once wicket-keeper batsman departed.

Earlier, England captain Alastair Cook was dropped twice, on 65 by Murali Vijay off Varun Aaron, and on 71 by Ajinkya Rahane off Ravichandran Ashwin.

Aaron and Vijay then combined again to remove him on 79, as Cook failed in an attempt to make his first century since May 2013.

Gary Ballance made a misjudgement on 64 when he pushed rigidly a delivery by Ashwin, perhaps benefiting from a touch of extra bounce, and planted the ball into the hands of silly mid-off.

With both well-set batsmen back in the dressing room, a fresh pair - Ian Bell and Root was in the middle. And Ishant Sharma struck to give India another wicket in the following over. Replacing Aaron from one end he got Bell to edge one straight to MS Dhoni behind the stumps leaving England on 204/4.

With the fall of three quick wickets, Moeen Ali then joined Root who had faced just one ball and was yet to open his account. Ali struck couple of boundaries off Aaron through midwicket and square-leg in the next over to relieve some of the pressure and the pair worked to rebuild the innings. However, while on 14 he lost his stumps to Ashwin.

Joss Buttler then joined the in-form Root to see the hosts through to Tea. Resuming in the final session, the pair seized the momentum back. With singles and doubles they worked themselves in and then rebuild the innings. Having steadied the innings and gained in confidence they found the ropes at regular intervals. Buttler drove and guided the ball to the boundary with finesse all round the ground as he raced past his partner. While the Indian bowlers ran in and hit the deck hard with the new ball it did little to rattle the pair as they took the team past 300 and the lead past 150.

But on 45, the more aggressive of the pair, Buttler was sent back by Ishant with a delivery that came into the batsman. The middle-order bat hit the ball to Ashwin at short mid-wicket to depart.

Root who had played a quieter innings until then slammed Bhuvneshwar over for a six to get into the 40s as he looked to keep up the momentum. Even as Chris Woakes was sent back by the pacer for duck later in the over with the delivery going down the leg side grazing past the lower-order batsman’s willow and MS Dhoni dived to his left to take the catch, Root continued to attack.

Edges flew but didn’t carry as the Indian bowlers relentlessly bent their backs to curb England as Root kept them at bay.

Ashwin was the leading bowler on another difficult day for India, closing with figures of 2-55.

Brief scores:

Day 1:
India 1st inn 148 all out in 61.1 overs (MS Dhoni 82, C Woakes 3/30, C Jordon 3/32); England 1st inn 62/0 in 19 overs (S Robson 33*, A Cook 24*)

Day 2: England 2nd inn 385/7 in 105 overs (J Root 92*, A Cook 79, G Ballance 64, R Ashwin 2/55, I Sharma 2/58)

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Just a bad patch: Penney

India’s fielding coach insists the batting collapses are not due to flawed techniques

After the twin horrors at Southampton and Manchester, India’s batting collapsed once again on the first day of the Oval Test. Put in to bat by Alastair Cook, India got bundled out for 148 in 61.1 overs. The top five batsmen scored 18, 0, 4, 6, 0.

Facing questions over the team’s dismal show was fielding coach, Trevor Penney. He credited the England bowlers for their effort and insisted this is only a bad patch that the batsmen will get through.

“It was a good toss to win (for England). The ball did a bit today and the English bowlers bowled really well,” Penney said. “The first session was crucial. We lost too many wickets and that set us back to have a really poor day.”

Penney denied any technical flaws causing India’s batting downfall in the last five innings. “In the first two Tests our batsmen were getting big scores,” he said. “We’ve just have a couple of bad games. England have bowled better and fuller, are making our batsmen play more often and watch out where their off-stump is.

“The guys are practicing hard at that. We travelled to New Zealand and South Africa where the guys got good scores. So, it’s not too much of a technical thing. We’ve just got to play positive cricket and not let the bowlers dominate.”

While the rest of the batsmen struggled to put bat on ball, MS Dhoni, like he did in the first innings of the Old Trafford Test, forged a lone battle with a fighting and gritty 82. Dhoni scored 55.40 per cent of the team’s total, which is most by an Indian captain in a completed Test innings.

Penney said the top-order batsmen will do well to take lessons from their captain. “He had a great day. With the way he batted, he showed our top order how to do it.”

Another problem that has plagued India in this series is the slip catching. A number of catches have gone down and the positioning and techniques of the slippers has often been questioned. There is also a lack of uniformity in the slip cordon due to the changes in playing XI.

Penney said about the matter, “It’s always difficult because you want to keep your slip cordon the same throughout the series. But with people left out and changes made in the team, you’ve got give practice to the other guys and try different combinations.

“We have dropped a few and taken a few. Slips is not the easiest place to field. But we are working on different combinations.”

“We are happy with all the techniques and there are going to be dropped catches in cricket. There haven’t been so many that we start panicking yet.”