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).
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.
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)