Indian spinners hurt England’s chase in 2nd Test

Visakhapatnam (India)—In an era of faster, harder, shorter – when the virtue of a young batsman is increasingly judged by strike-rate rather than overs endured – Haseeb Hameed produced a throwback innings to match that produced by his captain and opening partner, Alastair Cook, as England launched what already counts as a heroic rearguard, irrespective of what may come to pass on the fifth and final day at Visakhapatnam.
While Cook and Hameed were in harness, calmly withstanding India’s best efforts throughout a magnificent opening stand of 75 that spanned 50.2 overs (which is longer, incidentally than four of Australia’s last eight completed innings), survival had seemed very much within England’s grasp – much as it had done for South Africa in similar circumstances 12 months ago, when AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla came together for another mighty blockathon in Delhi.
But, in a devastating denouement in the final half hour before stumps, England lost both of their incumbents to a pair of memorable lbws – Hameed for 25 from 188 deliveries, pinned on the shin as R Ashwin grubbed an unplayable offbreak along the deck in a manner utterly reminiscent of Nasser Hussain’s shooter against Carl Hooper in 1997-98.
Then, in the final over of the day, Cook, the rock of England’s resistance, played once too often across the line to Ravi Jadeja, and Kumar Dharmasena raised his finger. The umpire’s judgment was spot on on this occasion, for the ball was heading straight for middle and leg, but with India already out of reviews and Dharmasena’s relationship with DRS at an all-time low, he deserved credit for trusting his judgment at such a critical juncture.
That late strike allowed India to leave the field with the spring back in their step, and Virat Kohli took the chance to gather his men into a huddle before they returned to the DRESSINGroom. India remain strong favourites on a surface that will compromise the more stroke-based techniques in England’s middle order – not least that of Ben Duckett, who is next man in to join Joe Root when play resumes tomorrow – but if any further proof were needed that this five-Test series will be a fight to the finish, this was it.—AFP

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