Pujara's 15 Test century hands India the lead after they collapse to 195-8
Moeen Ali recorded his second successive five-wicket Test haul at the Ageas Bowl but was unable to stop Cheteshwar Pujara edging a mid-match advantage for India.
Moeen (5-63), back for his first Test in five months and at the venue where he took 6-67 over these same opponents four years ago, put England fleetingly on course for a first-innings lead.
Pujara (132 not out) prevented that, though, constructing a near five-hour century – his 15th in Tests and fifth against England – as India reached 273 all out in reply to 246 by stumps on day two.
India’s first innings was not an exact action replay of England’s in this fourth Test, but there were distinct similarities as many of the specialist batsmen failed to fulfil their brief – and Pujara was left to eke out 78 runs in stands with numbers 10 and 11.
Moeen put the tourists in a spin either side of tea, taking four wickets for eight runs in 16 balls as they faltered from 142-2 to 195-8.
England’s new-ball pair had begun moderately in their four overs the previous evening, but were re-engaged in the hope of much better on a sunny morning.
Stuart Broad (3-63) delivered with the wickets of both openers.
KL Rahul fell lbw on the front-foot defence, and the patient Shikhar Dhawan pushed out at one from round the wicket and was caught-behind by a tumbling Jos Buttler.
A 92-run stand followed, with Pujara more convincing than Virat Kohli – who moved past 6,000 Test runs with a chisel through the vacant gully off James Anderson, and used the edge almost as much as the middle until he followed a straight ball slanted across him to be caught at slip off Sam Curran.
It was the belated introduction of Ben Stokes which first started to make things happen more quickly for England.
Pujara, on 50, and Ajinkya Rahane escaped half-chances in his first two overs. But Joe Root’s drop at second slip was much less costly than Buttler’s failure to lay a glove on Pujara’s low edge – because Rahane was soon lbw toppling over in defence to Stokes.
Pujara took on a Stokes short ball and was hit on the helmet, a blow which brought a near 10-minute delay for a concussion test and change of headgear.
It did not perturb the imperturbable, though, and India’s number three was in no way jolted out of his chosen tempo.
Even Moeen’s sudden rush of wickets could not ruffle him. Rishabh Pant went to the last ball before the break, the eighth lbw departure of the match, when he missed one sliding on to hit leg-stump to go for a 29-ball duck.
Hardik Pandya’s counter-attack plan brought him one boundary before he clipped Moeen to a diving Root at short midwicket. Then the off-spinner put himself on a hat-trick.
Ravi Ashwin was culpable with a bizarre attempt at a reverse-sweep, bottom-edged on to his unguarded leg stump, and Mohammed Shami lost his off-bail first ball.
Ishant Sharma kept out the hat-trick ball at the start of Moeen’s next over, and stayed put to help add 32 valuable runs until he was well-caught by Alastair Cook at short-leg.
Pujara was joined on 96, when India were still 19 runs behind, by number 11 Jasprit Bumrah. But he completed his 210-ball century with a chip over Moeen’s head – and remained in control to extend England’s frustrations with the second new ball until Bumrah failed to deal with Broad’s extra bounce and was caught at slip.
That allowed for four overs in which Cook and Keaton Jennings survived on six for none.