England’s Moeen Ali predicts new-ball battle on final day of second India Test
Moeen Ali predicted a new-ball battle on the final morning would settle the second LV= Insurance Test after another day of fluctuating fortunes at Lord’s.
Day four ended with everything to play for at the home of cricket, India 154 ahead with four wickets in hand and a flimsy tail to protect.
Bad light intervened with 25 minutes remaining when England skipper Joe Root insisted he wanted to unwrap a fresh Dukes for his quick men rather than stick with his own spin at both ends in fading light.
His opposite number Virat Kohli was getting increasingly animated on the away balcony as he gestured to the floodlights, and the umpires opted to lead the teams back to the pavilion and reconvene on Monday.
A second-successive draw may be the likeliest outcome but both teams have a chance to nick a result.
England will hope to dismiss the tourists in a hurry then chase down what is left, while India’s best route involves a flurry of runs from the fearless Rishabh Pant and a collapse from the home team.
“I think the new ball is crucial for both teams,” concluded Moeen.
“They’ve got Pant, who is dangerous, and we know what he can do but we also know what Jimmy Anderson can do with the new ball. We need four wickets and they need to get some runs.
“I think they’re in a half-decent position and I think we’re in a good position. We’re going into a great day.”
It had briefly looked as though India were much the happier side to bring an early end to proceedings, but Moeen explained that Root was not content to keep his seamers out of the action merely to keep the batsmen out there.
“We were pretty pleased to come off as well, a 15 or 20 run over from Pant could have been dangerous,” he said.
“It’s more of a tactical thing and I think both teams had the same tactics.”
England will hope that Mark Wood is fit to play a full part in proceedings after he sustained a painful shoulder injury in the field, colliding into an advertising board while saving a boundary.
Wood’s pace had done much of the heavy lifting for England, taking out in-form openers KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma in the morning and then ending Cheteshwar Pujara’s defiant stay.
Pujara made 45 in over four-and-a-half hours of defiance, including just 11 runs from his first 100 balls, but was finally beaten by a brutal delivery that spat up from a decent length.
“I think he’s OK, not too bad,” said Moeen of the injury scare.
“He fully deserved his wickets and Pujara was a massive one. The way he ran in and banged the pitch with a soft ball on a dead wicket…I thought he was fantastic.”
Moeen also made a couple of important breakthroughs late in the day, getting top-scorer Ajinkya Rahane caught behind and cleaning up Ravindra Jadeja with drift and turn.
He was playing with a smile in his first home Test in two years and admitted he was focused on having fun.
“I feel happy with everything and I’m not taking it too seriously anymore,” he said.
“I know there’ll be bad days, probably bad days in this series, but I know there’ll be good days. That was my aim coming back in.
“It wasn’t the runs or the wickets so much, although they help, it was more about enjoying myself and enjoying the challenge as much as I could.”
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