England reduce India to 174-6 in reply to 332 on Day 2

LONDON (AP) — Yet another rescue attempt by Jos Buttler worked.

Virat Kohli’s latest attempt didn’t.

England’s fast bowlers backed up an inspired innings from Buttler by reducing Kohli’s India to 174-6 and grabbing command of the fifth test on day two at the Oval on Saturday.

Stuart Broad and Sam Curran removed India’s openers, then James Anderson and Ben Stokes tore through the middle order with two wickets each. India captain Kohli, the leading batsman in the series, was taken out by Stokes for 49 near stumps.

England’s lead of 158 was largely thanks to the series’ second leading run-scorer, Buttler, who struck 89 to guide his side to 332 from an overnight total of 198-7.

Buttler, who returned to the test side only in May after 18 months, picked up from where he left off in Southampton a week ago when scoring a crucial 69 to help England establish an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series.

“I’ve found a nice balance and a good mentality about the game,” Buttler said. “I’ve got a good perspective and been practicing really well.

“I’ve been really pleased with how it’s gone so far since coming back.”

Supported by tailenders Adil Rashid and Stuart Broad, Buttler made his third half century in his last four test innings to take England to a total that far exceeded its own expectations at the start of the day.

Kohli appeared to be expecting a trademark Buttler onslaught, but the England batsman instead chose to take advantage of a defensively set field and score mainly through singles early on.

It was Rashid, who reached 15 before being given out leg before wicket off Jasprit Bumrah, and then Broad, who took on the role of aggressor.

Broad provided a reminder of his shot-making ability with some fine front-foot shots, before Buttler somewhat inevitably went on the attack himself to bring up his half century from 84 balls.

The pair made it through to lunch on 304-8, but it was only when Broad went, courtesy of a fine catch from Lokesh Rahul in the deep off Ravindra Jadeja, that Buttler moved into top gear.

England’s No. 7 provided a glimpse of the play that has made him a star in shorter forms of the game, smashing Bumrah for two sixes in the same over to move within sight of his second test century.

Left alongside James Anderson, who didn’t score, Buttler’s desire to keep his partner off strike cost him, as he edged Jadeja, who finished with 4-79, to slip as he tried to force a single off the final ball of the over.

“He (Buttler) played well,” Bumrah said. “He was taking his chances. When you’re playing with the tail, you don’t have a lot to lose. You can play with a lot of freedom.”

England carried that momentum into its bowling as Broad struck with his first ball to dismiss Shikhar Dhawan leg before wicket for 3. Broad’s 432nd wicket lifted him past Richard Hadlee to eighth on the all-time wicket-taking list.

Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara shared a second-wicket partnership of 64, but both fell for 37. Curran produced a near-perfect delivery to bowl Rahul, and Pujara was caught behind off Anderson.

Anderson, who ended with 2-20, claimed his second wicket in seven balls when Ajinkya Rahane was caught at slip for a duck, leaving Kohli to repair his side’s resistance once more.

However, even Kohli — who had already survived a close lbw appeal off Anderson — couldn’t revive his team in good bowling conditions under cloudy London skies, as he edged Stokes to England captain Joe Root at slip.

Buttler said of Kohli’s dismissal: “He’s had an outstanding series so any time you create a chance . they’re huge moments for us against a guy of that quality.”

Rishabh Pant (5) fell in similar fashion to his captain two overs later, edging Stokes to Cook at slip, leaving the England allrounder with figures of 2-44.

India debutant Hanuma Vihari was almost out without scoring, but successfully reviewed an lbw decision and took advantage of his reprieve to reach 25 not out, alongside Jadeja, 8 not out.