First Test, Rajkot (day three):
England 537: Stokes 128, Root 124, Moeen 117
India 319-4: Vijay 126, Pujara 124
England lead by 218 runs
England took two late wickets after Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara made centuries for India on the third day of the first Test in Rajkot.
Vijay (126) was dropped on 66 and Pujara (124) successfully reviewed an lbw decision on 86 in a stand of 209.
After Pujara slashed Ben Stokes to slip, Vijay and Amit Mishra fell in the final two overs to give England the breakthroughs they deserved.
India closed on 319-4, 218 behind, with Virat Kohli unbeaten on 26.
The late wickets, to Adil Rashid and Zafar Ansari respectively, were just reward for an England side that stuck to their task on a surface that only began to offer greater assistance to the spinners at the end of the day.
Further success on the fourth morning could provide the tourists the opportunity to force a victory, though two more sessions of Indian batting would probably leave the hosts as the only team able to win.
“Maybe, in the end, England have just shaded the day,” said ex-England batsman Geoffrey Boycott on BBC Test Match Special.
“England will be thinking positively now. If they get a couple of early wickets tomorrow, especially Kohli, cor blimey.”
England made to wait for rewards
England were buoyant when Stuart Broad, in his 100th Test, trapped Gautam Gambhir lbw with his first ball of the day.
The tourists, though, had to wait 67 overs for another breakthrough.
In the heat, England bowled tidily and remained energetic in the field – the three spinners were collectively more economical than on the tour of Bangladesh, Broad accurately probed, Chris Woakes was hostile and Stokes returned from a poor first spell to remove Pujara.
Still, it looked as though India would go to the close just two wickets down, only for England to strike twice in the space of four deliveries.
First Vijay failed to deal with a Rashid googly and popped an simple catch to Haseeb Hameed to short leg, then nightwatchman Mishra inside-edged left-armer Ansari to the same fielder.
“That’s a little boost and you can’t begrudge it for England,” said former England spinner Vic Marks on Test Match Special. “It’s particularly pleasing that it’s Ansari and Rashid who have taken the wickets and the second was a better catch from Hameed, who took it low down by his ankles.”
Pujara enjoys home comforts
Pujara hit 382 runs before being dismissed against England four years ago, then went 14 innings without passing 55.
Here, he recovered from being hit on the head three times in as many overs by Woakes to make his ninth Test century.
Scoring almost exclusively off the front foot, Pujara played drives on both sides of the wicket and the occasional tickle fine off the hips.
Given out lbw to Ansari, he was reprieved when a review suggested the ball was going over the top of the stumps.
Though he was made to wait on 99 during tea, Pujara celebrated reaching three figures in the first Test on his home ground, before being held by captain Alastair Cook off Stokes at a wide slip position.
Vijay cashes in on moment of fortune
Vijay, who made 25 of India’s overnight 63-0, was more sedate than Pujara, watchfully defending and leaving during almost eight hours at the crease.
Only sporadically did he break the shackles, dancing down the pitch to loft England’s spinners for four straight sixes.
He was given a life on 66, when a diving Hameed could not cling on to a low, catchable chance off Broad at short cover.
When Pujara fell, Vijay and Kohli added 41 and looked set to defy England to remain overnight.
Now, after the late drama, captain Kohli will be joined by Ajinkya Rahane and it is that pair who are likely to shape India’s chances of getting towards, or even beyond, England’s 537.
‘To get two late wickets is huge’
England assistant coach Paul Farbrace on Sky Sports: “Going into the last 10 minutes we were saying ‘one more wicket will give the boys a lift’ but to get two has been huge.
“The breakthroughs show the importance of keeping going all day, holding in there for as long as you can on a flat pitch. One early wicket tomorrow and we are in a very good position. We think we have done particularly well today.
“The spinners held the Indian batsmen in these conditions. Our spinners showed they have learnt a lot from the Bangladesh experience.”
India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara: “I think England bowled good lines but I knew that if I stayed in there I can get my shots on loose balls. Sometimes you have to respect international bowlers when they are bowling well in Test matches.
“If we can bat well on day four then we can be positive going into day five as I expect the ball to start turning more on day five. Here in India you always expect more turn at least by day four.”