Lees gives England flying start in record chase at Edgbaston

Published July 5, 2022
ENGLAND opener Alex Lees plays a shot during the fifth Test against India at Edgbaston on Monday.—Reuters
ENGLAND opener Alex Lees plays a shot during the fifth Test against India at Edgbaston on Monday.—Reuters

BIRMINGHAM: Alex Lees’ quickfire unbeaten fifty ensured England made a rapid start to their run chase in the delayed fifth Test against India at Edgbaston on Monday.

England were 107-1 in their second innings at tea on the fourth day, needing a further 271 runs to reach a target of 378.

Lees was 56 not out, having shared an exhilarating opening stand of 107 with Zak Crawley in a match England must win to end this five-Test series all square at 2-2.

But the pair, together for fewer than 22 overs, were separated just before the interval when Crawley shouldered arms to a brilliant off-cutter from India stand-in captain Jasprit Bumrah.

Crawley, who has been struggling for runs, had looked in fine touch while hitting seven fours in his 46.

There have been only two successful fourth-innings chases above 200 in a Test at Edgbaston, with South Africa making 283-5 in 2008 and England 211-3 against New Zealand in 1999.

England, however, reached seemingly stiff targets of 277, 299 and 296 during a recent 3-0 whitewash of Test world champions New Zealand.

Both Cheteshwar Pujara (66) and Rishabh Pant (57) threatened to take India to an impregnable total but each got out when well set, with the tourists losing their last six wickets for 55 runs as they were bowled out for 245.

Lees and Zak Crawley set about the chase with relish.

Left-hander Lees off-drove Mohammed Shami for four, with Crawley whipping Bumrah off his pads for another boundary.

Lees then expertly uppercut third seamer Mohammad Siraj for four and greeted Ravindra Jadeja’s first ball of the day by going down the pitch to drive the left-arm spinner to the boundary.

A forcing shot off Siraj took Lees to a 44-ball fifty with his eighth boundary. As he walked off at tea, Lees was involved in an animated conversation with former India captain Virat Kohli, who’d already been spoken to this match by the umpires after exchanging words with England first-innings century-maker Jonny Bairstow.

India resumed on their overnight 125-3, with Pujara 50 not out and Pant — who made 146 in a first-innings total of 416 — unbeaten on 30.

Pujara had only been recalled to the top of the order after India captain Rohit Sharma and fellow opener KL Rahul were ruled out by Covid-19 and a groin injury respectively.

He looked in fine touch Monday, forcing England great James Anderson off the back foot through point and clipping him off his pads for two well-struck fours.

But the 34-year-old’s four-hour innings ended when he cut Stuart Broad straight to Lees at backward point.

A clearly frustrated Pujara walked off, having now gone 50 innings since his last Test century — 193 against Australia at Sydney in January 2019.

Pant was dropped on 45 when Crawley failed to hold a tough chance diving to his left at second slip before a leg-glanced four off Broad, his seventh boundary in 76 balls, took him to his fifty.

But Pant fell when a miscued reverse sweep off left-arm spinner Jack Leach was caught by Joe Root at slip, with England captain Ben Stokes mopping up the tail on his way to 4-33 in 11.5 overs.

At the close of play on the third day, India had tightened their grip on the Test against England, with an overall lead of 257 and with seven wickets in hand, despite Bairstow’s belligerent hundred.

Anderson removed Shubman Gill in the first over and Broad got rid of Hanuma Vihari but Pujara dug in his heels to frustrate England when India came out to bat.

Kohli (20) unfurled some silken drives before being done in by the extra bounce generated by Stokes.

Billings had spilled the catch but an alert Root grabbed the ball before it could hit the ground.

Pant, whose rapid 146 put India in the box seat, was more restrained in the second innings.

India are 2-1 up in the series which could not be completed last year following Covid-19 cases in the India camp ahead of the final match at Old Trafford.

Scoreboard

INDIA (2nd Innings, overnight 125-3): S. Gill c Crawley b Anderson 4 C. Pujara c Lees b Broad 66 H. Vihari c Bairstow b Broad 11 V. Kohli c Root b Stokes 20 R. Pant c Root b Leach 57 S. Iyer c Anderson b Potts 19 R. Jadeja b Stokes 23 S. Thakur c Crawley b Potts 4 M. Shami c Lees b Stokes 13 J. Bumrah c Crawley b Stokes 7 M. Siraj not out 2 EXTRAS (B-6, LB-7, NB-3, W-3) 19 TOTAL (all out, 81.5 overs) 245 FALL OF WICKETS: 1-4 (Gill), 2-43 (Vihari), 3-75 (Kohli), 4-153 (Pujara), 5-190 (Iyer), 6-198 (Pant), 7-207 (Thakur), 8-230 (Shami), 9-236 (Jadeja) BOWLING: Anderson 19-5-46-1 (1nb), Broad 16-1-58-2 (1nb), Potts 17-3-50-2 (1w), Leach 12-1-28-1, Stokes 11.5-0-33-4 (1nb, 1w), Root 6-1-17-0 (1w)

ENGLAND (2nd Innings): Alex Lees not out 56 Zak Crawley b Bumrah 46 Ollie Pope not out 0 EXTRAS (LB-4, NB-1) 5 TOTAL (for one wicket, 23 overs) 107 STILL TO BAT: J. Root, J. Bairstow, B. Stokes, S. Billings, M. Potts, S. Broad, J. Leach, J. Anderson FALL OF WICKET: 1-107 (Crawley) BOWLING: Bumrah 5-0-23-1 (1nb), Shami 6-2-21-0, Jadeja 4-0-18-0, Siraj 5-0-26-0, Thakur 3-0-15-0

Published in Dawn, July 5th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Beyond the pale
Updated 09 Aug, 2022

Beyond the pale

When such ugliness is unleashed, everyone at some point suffers the fallout.
Burying Gaza
09 Aug, 2022

Burying Gaza

IT is a sad commentary on the politics of the Middle East that even its most tragic human stories get defaced and...
Celebrate the athlete
09 Aug, 2022

Celebrate the athlete

TALK about delivering on your promise: javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem did that in the grandest style at the...
An unseemly dispute
08 Aug, 2022

An unseemly dispute

THERE is clarity, but perhaps not of the kind that Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial hoped to achieve when...
Unfair on taxpayers
Updated 08 Aug, 2022

Unfair on taxpayers

Unfair move has drawn valid criticism as it coincides with drastic increase in income tax on salaried people and corporates.
Polio nightmare
08 Aug, 2022

Polio nightmare

AS if the resurgence of polio in southern KP were not enough, officials and international monitoring bodies must now...