Curran’s half-century sets India a target of 194 runs

England’s Sam Curran celebrates after reaching a half-century. (Reuters pic)

BIRMINGHAM: A solid half century by Sam Curran propelled England to 180 runs at tea on Friday in their second innings on the third day, setting India a target of 194 to win the first test match of a five-game series.

Playing with confidence in only his second test appearance, the 20-year-old Curran took the attack to the Indian bowlers who had earlier ripped out the heart of the English batting line by reducing the hosts to 87 for 7 shortly after lunch.

Curran struck two valuable partnerships, first with Adil Rashid for 48 runs, which was the biggest of the English innings, and then 41 with fast bowler Stuart Broad for the ninth wicket.

After a cautious start, Curran grew in confidence and clobbered Ravichandran Ashwin, who was the pick of the Indian bowling attack in the first innings, for a six and a four off consecutive balls in the session before tea.

He ended up as the top scorer for the hosts with 63 runs off 65 deliveries peppered with nine boundaries and two sixes. Broad ended with 11 as England limped to their second innings total of 180 at Edgbaston.

For the visitors, Sharma spearheaded the attack grabbing five wickets for 51 runs followed by Ashwin who grabbed three wickets in the morning session.

England got off to a rocky start on Friday, losing six wickets in the morning session, as the visitors ripped through the hosts’ batting order including the prized scalp of skipper Joe Root.

Resuming the day at 9-1, England’s batsmen ran into trouble with more than half the side back in the pavilion as Ashwin and Ishant Sharma bagged three wickets each with the overall lead at 99 runs at lunch.

Ashwin’s offspin proved potent against both English left-handed openers.

Keaton Jennings edged a ball pitched on off-stump and moving slightly away to second slip. A similar delivery got rid of Alastair Cook on the final ball of the second day.

But the big one for India was Root’s wicket, England’s best player of spin and top scorer with a fluent 80 runs in the first innings, who flicked a ball to KL Rahul who made a low catch at leg slip.

At the end of the second day, Virat Kohli scored a gritty 149 to rescue India and leave the intriguing first test finely balanced after England’s pace bowlers ran through India’s much vaunted top order to leave them reeling on 100-5 at one stage.

Skipper Kohli was finally last man out with his dismissal giving England a slim 13-run first-innings lead after they bowled out the visitors for 274.

The hosts, playing their 1000th test, scored 287 runs in their first innings.