LONDON: Ollie Pope helped England take the first-innings lead against India with a sublime half-century, taking the hosts to 227 for seven at tea on day two of the fourth Test here on Friday.
The Indian pacers were unable to sustain the pressure on a pitch that seems to be getting better for batting with each passing session.
England led India by 36 runs at the break with Pope (74 batting off 143) and Chris Woakes (4 batting off 7) in the middle.
The first wicket in the session came through Mohammad Siraj, who trapped Jonny Bairstow (37) with his stock ball — the nip backer — in the fifth over after lunch.
That also brought an end to an entertaining 89-run stand between Bairstow and Pope.
Pope then got together with Moeen Ali (35) to give England the upper hand. The two shared a 71-run stand and before a well-set Moeen played a poor shot off Ravindra Jadeja to throw his wicket away. The attempted slog-sweep went straight into the hands of the cover fielder.
Jasprit Bumrah could have had Moeen leg before wicket earlier but India did not review on-field umpire’s decision.
Pope played some exquisite shots en route to his sixth half-century. The drive on the up, the flick and pull shots were a treat to the eye.
In the morning session, Umesh Yadav struck twice in the first hour of play before a counter-attacking stand between Bairstow and Pope took England to 139 for five at lunch.
England scored 86 runs in the 25-over session.
Umesh, perennially in and out of the playing eleven and featuring in his first Test in nine months, was impressive in his opening spell after taking the prized wicket of Joe Root on Thursday.
He got his 150th Test wicket in his first over of the day after nightwatchman Craig Overton slashed one hard only to edge it to Virat Kohli at first slip.
Dawid Malan (31 off 67) once again batted fluently until Umesh, coming from around the wicket, got one to slightly straighten to take the outside edge and Rohit Sharma took a brilliant diving catch at second slip, leaving England at 62 for five.
With Bumrah also applying pressure from the other end, England managed to score only 25 runs in the first hour in which 12 overs were bowled.
However, the momentum shifted drastically in England’s favour after the drinks break as Shardul Thakur conceded four boundaries in his over with three of them coming from Pope’s bat.
One was a delightful straight drive and was followed by a flick between the mid-on and mid-wicket arc. With the pitch not offering much help to the pacers, Thakur paid the price for bowling a bit too full.
The next over, Bairstow collected three boundaries off Siraj, who too wasn’t at his best. Pope, playing his first game of the series, too batted with supreme confidence and struck a gorgeous cover drive off Bumrah towards the end of the session.
Jadeja was guilty of bowling two no-balls in his three overs before lunch.