Nair nears 200 as lead swells past 100

Lunch India 463 for 5 (Nair 122*, Ashwin 9*) trail England 477 by 14 runs
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Chopra: Nair’s work against spin impressive

Karun Nair brought up his maiden Test hundred as India inched towards the first-innings lead on the fourth morning of the Chennai Test. Nair, on 71 overnight, batted through a first session in which runs were hard to come by – India scored at 2.67 an over, compared to 3.76 through the course of day three – and went to lunch on 122. With five sessions left in the match, India trailed England by 14 runs with five wickets in hand.

England took only one wicket in the session, Liam Dawson picking up his first in Tests with an arm ball that hurried into M Vijay to hit him on the back pad in front of middle stump. Vijay consulted with Nair and reviewed, perhaps unwisely, because this was the definition of plumb. Earlier in the morning he had stood his ground when umpire Simon Fry had failed to spot a thin edge off Stuart Broad, perhaps aware that England had no reviews left.

Vijay saw Nair through a nervy period in the nineties, exhorting him from the other end to stay calm and wait for the scoring opportunity. Having played out five dots from Ben Stokes on 99, Nair reached the landmark by defying a packed off-side field, which included two short covers for the uppish drive, stretching out to a full, wide ball and letting it come to him to steer it past the diving backward point fielder.

That was only the third boundary Nair hit in the day in 49 balls, the others an unintentional four while trying to leave Broad and a nimble skip down the pitch to loft Dawson for six over long-on. It reflected the hard-nosed approach India had had to take in a session where England set defensive fields, bowled with discipline, and extracted more help from the pitch than they had on day three.

Inconsistent bounce was far more frequent. Dawson beat Vijay’s outside edge with turn and jump in the second over of the morning, and three balls later nearly bowled him with one that crept low. Stokes, hitting the pitch hard, often got the ball to lift, taking a chunk off the shoulder of Nair’s bat and hitting R Ashwin’s glove – on the index finger of his bowling hand – late in the session.

As if to balance out the impact of the uneven bounce, the pitch seemed to have slowed down a little more too. Ashwin, who likes the ball coming on to the bat, had to twice abort attempted back-foot punches off Dawson because the ball stuck on the pitch. By lunch, he had ground out 9 off 36 balls.

Added to these factors was Alastair Cook’s captaincy: he bowled the accurate Dawson unchanged from one end – he sent down 13 overs for 31 runs – and his seamers from the other, only using Adil Rashid for one over – the last one before lunch – and not using Moeen Ali at all.

Rashid’s introduction brought a little spike of aggression from Nair, who made himself a bit of room and drove him inside-out to the cover boundary. Perhaps a teaser for India’s approach after lunch, particularly if they have Rashid and Moeen in their sights. Both bowlers have conceded more than four runs an over in this innings.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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