Rahul’s unbeaten 50, Iyer’s solid 34 vs England help India inch closer to lead

Hyderabad: KL Rahul slammed his 14th Test fifty through an unbeaten 55 while Shreyas Iyer was rock-solid in his 34 not out to help India inch closer to taking the lead over England on day two of the first Test at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Friday.

At lunch, India are 222/3 in 50 overs, and trail England by only 24 runs. Though India lost Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill, the session belonged to India, who added 103 runs in 27 overs, 63 from which came from the fourth-wicket stand between Rahul and Iyer.

In the morning, Joe Root, who didn’t bowl a single ball on day one, got the wicket of Jaiswal on the fourth ball of the session. Jaiswal added four runs to his overnight total of 76, before being deceived in pace and flight to give a return catch to Root on his bowling.

England almost got the wicket of Rahul on nought, but Ben Foakes dropped a tough chance off Root. But Rahul got going with back-to-back fours via on-drives off debutant Tom Hartley, before rolling his wrists over to sweep Root through backward square leg for a boundary.

Shubman Gill struggled to get going and was constantly defending in front of his body, while getting caught at the crease and unable to rotate strike. In a bid to release the pressure, Gill skied one but Ben Stokes lost the track of the ball while running back from mid-on.

His very tentative innings, especially against spin, came to an end on 23 when he flicked straight to mid-wicket, giving Hartley his first Test wicket. Mark Wood was given a short spell to bounce out Iyer, but failed to do so, with Rahul taking three boundaries off him via inside edge, square punch and a controlled pull.

England captain Ben Stokes brought back Hartley and Rehan Ahmed, with the latter able to trouble Iyer with his leg-breaks. But the right-handed batter feasted on whenever the duo erred, pulling Hartley’s short ball for six.

He followed it up by heaving and driving down the ground off Rehan for two fours and even cut Root through extra cover for another boundary. From the other end, Rahul brought up his fifty in his 50th Test match, with his knock’s standout feature being at ease in scoring against spinners and willing to switch between back-foot and front-foot to keep the scoreboard moving.

With Rahul and Iyer at ease, India will be aiming to put themselves into taking the lead in the second session and bat England out of the match. On the other hand, England will wonder if they had bowled more of Leach in the first session.

The left-arm spinner is playing a Test match for the first time since May last year, before a lower back stress fracture took him out of the Ashes. England will be keen to see if Leach, who bowled only two overs in the first session, can bowl more to make a comeback in the second session.

Brief Scores: England 246 in 64.3 overs lead India 222/3 in 50 overs (Yashasvi Jaiswal 80, Kl Rahul 55 not out; Joe Root 1/26, Jack Leach 1/32) by 24 runs