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Sharma and Gill accumulate a high number of points for India as England struggles towards a significant loss.
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Sharma and Gill accumulate a high number of points for India as England struggles towards a significant loss.

The second day in Dharamsala was filled with sunshine and beauty. The visiting supporters from England might have been tempted to explore the charming streets of McLeod Ganj, take a stroll to the Bhagsunag waterfall, or hike to the nearby temple in Dharamkot, where colorful Tibetan flags adorn the pine trees.

However, there is a possibility that there will be some available time towards the conclusion of the fifth Test match, as India outplayed England for three more sessions, putting them on the path to a speedy victory and a 4-1 series triumph. At the end of the day’s play, India finished on 473 runs with eight wickets remaining, highlighting the favorable condition of the pitch that England had struggled with in the previous day, giving the hosts a daunting lead of 255 runs.

If some individuals had chosen to go on a sightseeing trip instead of watching the English team struggle, those with a love for aesthetics would have missed out on some beautifully executed shots from the Indian team. Rohit Sharma (103) and Shubman Gill (110) both scored elegant and effortless centuries, followed by impressive fifties from newcomers Devdutt Padikkal (65) and Sarfaraz Khan (56).

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It broke the “pinky promise” given to the team physio over not bowling on this tour after last November’s knee surgery, Stokes motoring in after lunch and sending down a beauty to Sharma that angled in, decked away, and pinged off-stump. Cue the ­Graham Gooch line to Ian Botham – “Who writes your scripts?” – amid the mix of shock and delight.

Jimmy Anderson took out Gill, the second player he has eliminated, in the over directly following. The ball curved in this time and hit his target, marking Anderson’s 699th Test wicket. Anderson, who is 41 years old, was unable to reach his 700th wicket as he only bowled 10 overs in three separate turns and was not utilized during the final part of the match.

India had already surpassed their opponents by 61 runs and lost three wickets before the break. The team was motivated by two players who contributed towards dispelling the notion of a weakened India squad. The reality is that there is an abundance of talented players on the team, as shown by Khan’s third exciting half-century in this series.

Backing up the hypothesis was newcomer Paddikal, a skilled left-handed player who Moeen Ali may have considered taking legal action against for copying his style if they were not already good friends from their time in the Indian Premier League. Slightly taller, but still a talented player, he hit 10 fours and became the fifth player to score a half-century when he hit a six down the middle off Shoaib Bashir.

Bashir was no stranger to this feeling, his neck strained by sixes eight times in this innings, tying the record for most sixes hit off an England bowler. This was another reason for Moeen, who was hit eight times by Australia in the previous summer’s Ashes at Edgbaston, to possibly consider legal action from a distance.

At the same time, the inexperienced off-spinner remained composed, taking four wickets for 170 runs in 44 overs. This was achieved after an extended period of 21 overs, where he also managed to take three wickets for only 59 runs. His first delivery after tea broke the 97-run partnership for the fourth wicket when Sarfaraz carelessly edged the ball to the slip fielder. He then dismissed Paddikal with an impressive delivery and successfully caught Dhruv Jurel on 15. There was even a chance for a fifth wicket, with Kuldeep Yadav being dropped on 23 in the second to last over when the ball deflected off his boot and evaded Stokes at gully.

The tourists’ day ended with disappointment while India had a successful day, as Tom Hartley was able to remove both Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin for a low cost. This was then followed by an unbroken and playful partnership of 45 runs between Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah. However, Mark Wood, with none for 89 from 15 overs, may have been able to put a stop to this if it were one of his better days.

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However, despite their initial success of taking 20 wickets in the first two matches, England has struggled to maintain their impact with the ball. This led Stokes to intervene, bowling a five-over spell in response to the determined batting of Sharma and Gill, which included a dropped return catch off Khan that was later found to be a no-ball.

The partnership of 171 runs between the two players on the second wicket was a juxtaposition of physical builds, but their playing styles were similar. Both batsmen, who were right-handed, displayed precise and skillful shots, showcasing their excellent technique and strategic shot selection. The momentum had been building towards this impressive performance, especially when Sharma hit Bashir for a six and a four in the third over of the match. Gill then followed suit with a confident six straight down the field off of Anderson’s delivery.

Both players were toying with Stokes, utilizing gaps created by field maneuvers to quickly target their bowling changes. Despite the strong responses, there was only one opportunity for a catch when Sharma was on 68, but the edge flew past leg slip and Zak Crawley was unable to make the catch, like trying to grasp at thin air.

Sharma’s century, from 154 balls, came with a fiddled single and humble raise of the bat, Gill’s, from 147 balls, via a swept four and a more elaborate doff of the cap. India’s top three all have two centuries apiece in this series, another sign of the growing gulf.

General view of play during day two of the fifth Test between India and England at Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium

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Source: theguardian.com