Ben Stokes scored a magnificent hundred to put England in a dominant position on the second day of this first Test against India.
The Durham all-rounder is a player who instils fear in opponents and belief in his own team-mates in equal measure and he certainly had that effect here with an innings that helped his side pile up an imposing first-innings 537.
India, the world’s No1 side don’t forget, were reduced to a rabble as England kept them in the field for 159.3 demoralising overs.
Six catches went down in that time, with Stokes the recipient of two lives before he reached three figures for the fourth time in Tests.
This was also the first time he had achieved the feat since his wonderful double-hundred against South Africa at Cape Town in January.
Joe Root, who made 124 on day one, and Moeen Ali, on 99 overnight before eventually falling for 117 on the second morning, also weighed in as England scored three centuries in a Test innings for the first time in Asia since 1961.
Scoring runs, though, is no guarantee of success in this part of the world and the way India batted out the remaining 23 overs of the day, reaching stumps on 63 without loss, was a warning of the work England still have to do in this match with a bowling attack that is certainly not guaranteed to take 20 wickets in any match on the sub-continent.
The cramp sustained by Stokes during his near five-hour stay at the crease also did not help matters, England insisting his absence off the field for seven overs during the final hour - and also for post-match media duties - was nothing more sinister.
Considering the 25-year-old’s recent injury record, nothing should be taken for granted.
England’s lack of bite in the spin-bowling department was in evidence during the recent 1-1 series draw in Bangladesh, spirited and improving opponents, no doubt, but hardly in the same league as India’s battery of batting superstars led by captain Virat Kohli.
The 11 wicketless overs bowled by Moeen, Adil Rashid and Zafar Ansari on this second evening are hopefully not a sign of things to come.
However, at least Alastair Cook’s team have plenty of runs to play with thanks to the efforts of their batsmen.
Root’s partnership of 179 with Moeen yesterday had laid the platform for what should still be a match-winning total for England.
Stokes then ensured there was no let-up for India’s beleaguered players.
There’s a reason India have won 12 of their past 13 home Tests. Yet they have never been put under pressure like this in any of those matches.
Ravichandran Ashwin, the India off-spinner, came into this series having taken 75 wickets at 16.25 in his past seven home Tests.
But his reputation and, perhaps for England’s batsmen, his fear factor took a battering as he returned three for 167, his worst figures since the Kolkata Test of 2012 against Cook’s side, the last home match India lost.
Moeen had begun the day on 99 and he converted that into his fourth Test century within three balls when he scampered a single off Mohammed Shami. He was then dismissed after uncharacteristically leaving a ball from Shami that uprooted his off stump.
Jonny Bairstow shared a 99-run stand with Stokes before becoming Shami’s next victim, edging behind to error-prone wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha.
Stokes had been reprieved twice before that by Saha, both off the bowling off the luckless Umesh Yadav.
England were sitting pretty on 450 for six at lunch having plundered 139 runs for the loss of just two wickets in the morning session.
Even though that progress was checked by two early afternoon wickets, Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm spin removing both Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid cheaply, Stokes ensured that was only temporary respite for India.
A 52-run ninth-wicket stand between Stokes and Ansari deepened the home side’s frustrations before Stokes, edging Yadav down the legside, fell for 128.
Amit Mishra, the wayward leg-spinner who conceded more than four runs an over, then picked up a cheap wicket he hardly deserved, Ansari trapped lbw, to wrap up England’s innings.Reuse content