India drive home the advantage in Dharamsala Test against England

Centuries from captain Rohit and Gill help hosts stretch lead to 255 with two wickets still in hand in fifth Test

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After an intense battle over four Tests, England's resolve eventually faded away into the serene surroundings of Dharamsala as India more or less batted the visitors out of contention on the second day of the fifth Test.

India started Friday's play 83 runs behind England's below par first-innings score of 218. By stumps, the home team had cruised to 473-8 for a huge lead of 255, captain Rohit Sharma and young batsman Shubman Gill leading the reply with masterful centuries.

It was supposed to be a dark and cold couple of days at the venue that is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. But England, who were hoping to derive some home comfort from familiar weather, were presented with the most typical day for a touring team in India.

With the sun out and no cloud cover at all, the Indian top order enjoyed the easiest day to bat all series while runs continued to flow all through the line-up as the home team scored at just under four runs an over.

Overnight batsmen Sharma and Gill made their intentions clear from the start as they quickly put India in front.

The one shot that epitomised their approach was when Gill stepped out against James Anderson and hit Test cricket's most successful fast bowler over his head for a six.

“I thought the ball wasn't doing much at that time,” said Gill, who scored 110. “I wanted to go over the top to put some pressure on him, and that's why I played that shot.”

Off-spinner Shoaib Bashir did create one chance when he got a flick from Sharma but the ball flew past Zak Crawley at leg slip.

The India captain took a single off Tom Hartley to bring up his hundred, while Gill slog-swept Bashir for a four in the next over to complete his century.

But soon after both batsmen reached three figures, England found a way back.

Captain Ben Stokes had not bowled the entire series and had been slowly working his way back into his all-rounder role. With India racing along to 275-1 in 61 overs, Stokes brought himself on and struck with the first ball, rattling the stumps of Sharma with a dream leg cutter to send the opener back for 103.

Next over, Anderson got more reverse as the ball snuck through Gill's defence to take his off stump for the seamer's 699th Test scalp.

“I think I missed out on a big one,” Gill added. “Even the ball that I got out to, I could not sight it properly. Apart from that, I'm feeling good, and hopefully I'll be able to convert these starts into big ones.”

England suddenly found movement and they had their tails up as it was a debutant batsman – Devdutt Padikkal – and fellow newcomer – Sarfaraz Khan – at the crease.

Padikkal endured some nervous moments as he edged a couple of boundaries but was soon into his stride, racing to a fifty on debut with 10 fours and a six that brought up his half century.

Padikkal (65) and Khan (56) added 97 runs before the latter edge Bashir (4-170) to slip. A second new ball also offered help to spinners as the visitors began to chip away at the wickets, before tail-enders Kuldeep Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah added 45 for the ninth wicket to put India firmly in control.

The wicket offered quick spin throughout the day and all England pacers got some movement with the old ball. If India somehow stretch the lead closer to 300, the visitors could well be staring at a heavy defeat and an early 4-1 series finish.

Updated: March 08, 2024, 1:22 PM