Ben Stokes produces more magic but England in deep trouble against India

England toiled despite Ben Stokes bagging a wicket with his first delivery in 251 days as hundreds from Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill saw India take an iron grip on the fifth Test.

India’s overnight pair helped them into the lead in a wicketless first session on day two but with England’s prospects growing ever bleaker, Stokes produced a beauty first up to castle Rohit for 103.

James Anderson moved to Test wicket 699 by bowling Gill for 110 but the floodgates did not open as Devdutt Padikkal’s 65 on debut and Sarfaraz Khan’s 56 lifted India to 473 for eight and a lead of 255.

Shoaib Bashir took four wickets and led the fightback in the evening but conceded 170 and was thumped for eight sixes, while Tom Hartley dismissed Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin in the same over.

Mark Wood leaked 89 from 15 wicketless overs and Anderson was also expensive in his 14-1-59-1 as England endured one of their most difficult days of the tour in Dharamsala.

A bid to end the series with a consolation win is all but over but Stokes provided a moment of magic on his return to bowling for the first time since July 1 in last year’s Ashes.

He has featured as a specialist batter since then and had surgery in November to remove a bone spur and reinforce his meniscus with stitches to try to resolve a longstanding complaint in his left knee.

Stokes had made a “pinky promise” with England’s physiotherapist Ben Davies not to bowl on this tour but he has progressed well enough in his recovery and been operating at full tilt in practice recently.

Having teased the possibility of resuming his all-rounder status in recent weeks, the England captain broke his vow to Davies and showed he was worth the wait with a scarcely credible instant impact.

Ben Stokes
The captain’s celebrations were muted (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)

England had barely had a sniff and seemed to be lacking in inspiration as Rohit and Gill put on 171, with the pair each going past three figures before lunch to carry India to an imposing 275 for one.

Stokes had an extended warm-up during the interval and unleashed himself in the second over of the session. A loosener might have been understandable, even acceptable, but Stokes’ angled delivery held its line, beat the outside edge after a flat-footed push from Rohit and thudded into off-stump.

Stokes barely acknowledged what he had done, high-fiving a couple of team-mates in understated fashion but Wood put his hands to his head and beamed in stunned disbelief.

Anderson found a hint of reverse swing to bowl Gill through the gate seven balls later and England sensed an opening. However, Stokes was frustrated at being unable to hang on to a low return catch diving forward when Sarfaraz was on two, albeit off a no-ball.

Stokes sent down a tidy spell of 5-1-17-1 and did not bowl again, keeping Sarfaraz and Test debutant Padikkal quiet. Sarfaraz took just nine off his first 30 balls but a rash of boundaries after Stokes excused himself brought up a fifty off only 55 deliveries.

Padikkal was a useful foil but Bashir ended a 97-run union when Sarfaraz guided the first ball after tea to slip.

Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma
Shubman Gill, right and Rohit Sharma both made hundreds (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)

Padikkal became the last of India’s top five to go past 50 in this innings but he was caught on the crease and Bashir beat a defensive poke to peg back off stump.

Hartley found sharp turn to have Jadeja lbw after a laboured 15 while Ashwin, on his 100th Test, followed in the same over for a duck when he was beaten with an arm ball and bowled.

Kuldeep Yadav (27 not out) and Jasprit Bumrah (19no) added gloss to India’s total and, perhaps to their relief, England did not have to bat the final few overs.

India earlier advanced an overnight 135 for one to 264 without further loss in the opening session, with both Rohit and Gill imperious, while a couple of misfields on the boundary hardly helped England, who had collapsed from 175 for three to 218 all out the previous day.

Rohit offered a glimpse of a chance on 68 after glancing Bashir fine but Zak Crawley, perhaps unsighted at leg slip, was too late to get in position as the ball flicked off his fingertips and away.

England were unable to exert much control, with Gill disdainfully thrashing Anderson back over his head for six before carting Bashir twice over the rope. Rohit reached his ton first while Gill did in the next over with a slog sweep for four off Bashir to get to the milestone off 137 balls.