Ollie Pope and Chris Woakes both scored valuable fifties on their return to Test cricket as England recovered from a top-order collapse to build a lead over India at The Oval on Friday.
Pope made 81 on his Surrey home ground and all-rounder Woakes exactly 50 before England were dismissed for 290 in reply to India’s first-innings 191 on the second day of the fourth Test.
India then held firm to be 43-0 in their second innings at stumps, a deficit of 56 runs.
Rohit Sharma was 20 not out and KL Rahul 22 not out, with this intriguing five-match series level at 1-1.
England were struggling at 62-5 early on Friday after paceman Umesh Yadav, playing his first Test in nearly a year, removed Craig Overton and Dawid Malan in a return of 3-76 in 19 overs.
But Pope, only recalled because Jos Buttler missed the match on paternity leave, revived the innings during partnerships of 89 and 71 with Jonny Bairstow (37) and Moeen Ali (35) respectively.
Warwickshire paceman Woakes, who’d already marked his first Test in over a year by leading England’s attack with 4-55 on Thursday, then blazed his way to a fifty in just 58 balls in front of a sun-drenched crowd.
This was Pope’s first half-century in 16 Test innings since a 62 against Pakistan in Manchester last year and also extended the 23-year-old’s excellent record at The Oval where, prior to Friday, he had scored 1,410 runs at an average of 100.71 in 18 first-class innings.
“I’m gutted [not to get a hundred] on my home ground, it would have been a bit of a dream to get over the line,” Pope told Sky Sports. “But I guess if someone said you’d get 81 first time back, you’d take that.”
Yadav’s early double strike
England resumed Friday on 53-3 after fit-again India all-rounder Shardul Thakur had struck a 31-ball fifty – the fastest in terms of balls faced in a Test in England.
Yadav, recalled with Thakur after India dropped fellow pacemen Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami, removed nightwatchman Overton for his overnight score of one, with a flashing square cut caught by India captain Virat Kohli at first slip.
Malan, fresh from his 70 on England recall in an innings win at Headingley last week, had added just five runs when, squared up by Yadav, he was well caught by a diving Rohit at second slip.
Yadav had also bowled England captain Joe Root for just 21 on Thursday after the world’s top-ranked Test batsman had made three hundreds this series.
“As a fast bowler, all wickets are important to me … If he’s Joe Root or [No 11 James] Anderson, they are all the same,” Yadav told reporters.
Pope hit three fours in four balls off Thakur – an on-drive, a clip through mid-on and a resounding pull off a short-pitched delivery.
Mohammed Siraj reduced England to 151-6 when Bairstow was lbw playing down the wrong line to a ball that nipped back off the pitch. But Pope leg-glanced Siraj for four to complete a 92-ball fifty in what is his first Test match at the Oval.
An excellent 5️⃣0️⃣ @OPope32! 👏
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 3, 2021
He was in sight of what would have been just his second hundred in 20 Tests, and first in England, when he played on to Thakur with an angled bat after more than four hours at the crease.
Woakes, however, hit 11 fours before he was run out to end the innings.
Earlier, YouTube prankster Daniel Jarvis got on the outfield for a third successive Test. This time, he hurled a ball down the pitch before colliding with Bairstow at the non-striker’s end.
Spectators booed Jarvis, who was eventually escorted off the field by security staff.
— Subhash Godara🇮🇳🇮🇳 (@Subhash92684430) September 3, 2021
A London’ Metropolitan Police statement said: “A man has been arrested on suspicion of assault at The Oval cricket ground on Friday, 3 September. He remains in custody at a south London police station.”
Pope was bemused at how Jarvis had evaded the stewards, telling reporters: “‘Jarvo’ has made a few appearances this series, I don’t know how he’s got on the pitch again, to be honest. I just try and stay in my bubble and don’t let it affect me.”
© Agence France-Presse