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Pacers put India on top before Pujara fifty extends lead to 257

Pacers put India on top before Pujara fifty extends lead to 257
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Birmingham: India's famed pace bowling unit for the umpteenth time put its team in pole position, bowling out England for 284 before the hosts just about managed to put a foot in the door by getting the top-order cheaply in an engrossing third day's play in the fifth Test.

At stumps, India were 125 for 3 in their second innings with Cheteshwar Pujara (50 batting, 139 balls) displaying his gutsy avatar with a half-century, battling it out in the company of the flamboyant Rishabh Pant (30 batting, 46 balls). The overall lead stood at 257 runs.

However, the dismissals of Shubman Gill (4), Hanuma Vihari (11) and Virat Kohli (20) would make the visitors uncomfortable going into the final day.

Kohli, as usual, got the best delivery of the entire third day's play when rival skipper Ben Stokes got one to rear up off length and no batter would have survived such a delivery with less than split second of reaction time.

Kohli, who was standing a good two feet outside the batting crease, was literally putting his best foot forward to defend from 17 yards while tackling the probing questions that James Anderson kept on asking but, as luck would have it, that delivery outside the off-stump had his name written on it.

Pujara played his usual waiting game with the clips off his toes and the occasional square cuts when provided width.

Pant, on the other hand, mixed caution with aggression and if he stays for an hour on the fourth morning, he will completely turn the tables.

While India in recent years, after taking a 100-run plus lead, have never lost a Test match, the current England side under Brendon McCullum's 'Bazball' (relentless attack) philosophy has made a mockery of near 300-run chases.

India would like to score at least 275 in their second essay and set England a target of at least 400 plus in order to close the match.

The third day is considered a moving day in Test cricket and things indeed proceeded at a breakneck pace as England scored runs at 4.61 runs per over, courtesy Jonny Bairstow's (106 off 140 balls) counter-attacking third hundred in as many games.

Bairstow was swift yet brutal in his assault which got him 14 boundaries and two sixes.

But, in line with India's overseas script in the last couple of years, the troika of skipper Jaspreet Bumrah (3/68 in 19 overs), Mohammed Shami (2/78 in 22 overs) and Mohammed Siraj (4/66 in 11.3 overs) kept up the pressure to ensure a sizeable lead of

132 runs.

Shardul Thakur (1/48) was taken to the cleaners by Bairstow but his happy knack of picking up crucial wickets saw him get rid of Stokes (25) just when the partnership of 66 was looking dangerous.

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