Pujara hits 132 to keep momentum with India in 4th test
SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) — Cheteshwar Pujara struck a crucial century to keep the momentum with India in the fourth test against England after a burst of four wickets in 16 balls from Moeen Ali threatened to give the hosts the edge on day two Friday.
Finding support from tailenders Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah, Pujara lifted the Indians from trouble at 195-8 by reaching his 15th test century, and ended unbeaten on 132 in a total of 273 all out.
That gave India a lead of 27 runs, and England openers Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings negotiated four tricky overs before stumps.
England was 6-0, trailing by 21 runs, and a potentially series-defining match was finely balanced heading into the weekend.
England leads the five-match series 2-1 after winning the first two tests.
Ali briefly gave England the initiative for the first time in the test by taking four wickets in an inspired spell either side of the tea interval, including two in two balls to remove Ravichandran Ashwin and Mohammed Shami. That plunged India from 181-4 to 195-8.
In snaffling Sharma, the allrounder got his five-wicket haul and had final figures of 5-63 off 16 overs.
"I know deep down I am not a perfect spinner," said Ali, who was playing in this test only because of the late withdrawal of Chris Woakes through injury, "but I know on my day I can bowl a side out."
"We are really pleased," Ali added. "They were 140-2 and going well, and to bowl them out for just 20-odd runs ahead is fantastic."
It was one of the most important innings of his career by Pujara, who wasn't even in India's team in the first test at Edgbaston.
The tourists were 50-2 when Pujara and Virat Kohli came together, and they put on a third-wicket stand of 92. During that partnership, Kohli — playing his 119th test innings — became the second quickest Indian player to pass 6,000 runs in the longest format.
Sam Curran, who hit a valuable 78 in England's first innings, made another key intervention when he got the prized wicket of Kohli, who played at a full-length ball and nicked it to Alastair Cook at first slip on 46.
Ali's blitz of wickets began with what proved to be the last ball before tea by removing Rishabh Pant, who made a 46-ball duck to equal India's record for the longest innings without scoring in terms of balls faced.
Ali stayed in the attack at the start of the final session and dismissed Hardik Pandya (4) in his next full over, with Joe Root taking a sharp catch at short midwicket.
Ashwin (1) was the next to go when he misguidedly attempted a reverse sweep off Ali, and succeeded in only bottom-edging onto his stumps.
It was Ali's third wicket in 15 balls for the loss of eight runs, and when he bowled Shami the very next ball, England was in the ascendancy.
Pujara ensured that didn't last for long.