India v England: Rishabh Pant ton defies Ben Stokes-led fightback


This was a wonderful day of Test cricket, an arm-wrestle for control on a pitch that is threatening to deteriorate.

For two sessions, England were as good with the ball as they were bad with the bat on Thursday, giving the hosts little respite.

However, even though Dan Lawrence’s 46 on day one was crucial, the decision to extend their batting left England short of a bowler late on day two, especially with off-spinner Dom Bess looking devoid of confidence after being left out for two Tests.

Pant cashed in with a memorable century that delighted the smattering of spectators inside the world’s biggest cricket stadium.

England still have the opportunity to post a fourth-innings target that could be tricky to chase on the wearing surface.

But the likelihood is that Pant has played a defining, series-winning innings.

Pant’s crucial hand

When Pant was joined by Sundar, India were still 59 behind and in danger of giving away a first-innings lead.

The wicket keeper, who played a crucial innings on the final day of India’s series win in Australia, began by curbing his attacking intent, before unleashing the full range of his stroke play. His first 63 balls brought 37 runs. The next 55 brought 64.

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On 35 he survived a marginal lbw shout from Bess in the final over before tea. On his return after break, Pant upped the intensity as England opted to bowl Bess and Joe Root instead of their front line trio of Stokes, James Anderson and Jack Leach.

Pant found another gear when England took the second new ball, audaciously reverse-sweeping Anderson over the slips, then went to his third Test century by slog-sweeping Root for six.

After Pant heaved to mid-wicket to give Anderson his third wicket, Sundar continued to play correctly and with composure in an unbroken stand of 35 with Axar Patel.

Sundar overturned being given lbw to Bess in the penultimate over of an evening session which yielded 141 runs.

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