- By Stephan Shemilt
- Chief cricket writer in Hyderabad
England can “dream the dream” after Ollie Pope’s “masterclass” gave them hope of winning the first Test against India, according to Joe Root.
Pope's epic 148 out took England to 316-6 in the second innings, a lead of 126 after three days in Hyderabad.
“Go to bed thinking about what tomorrow could be and then throw it all into the day,” Root said.
“We know the opportunity that lies before us, but we also recognize the hard work it will take to get there.”
In an excellent Saturday of Test cricket, England took the last three India wickets without any runs and bowled out the home team for 436 – a lead of 190 in the first innings.
The visitors appeared to be beaten with two days to go as they slipped to 163-5, only for Pope to play one of the great overseas knocks by an English batsman.
The vice-captain added 112 for the sixth wicket with wicketkeeper Ben Foakes making 34, an unbroken partnership of 41 with Rehan Ahmed. At 16, the 19-year-old won't be out overnight.
India, who have lost just three of their last 46 home Tests, have never been beaten on home soil in a game in which they secured a 100-run lead in the first innings.
“They are a damn good team who don’t lose here often,” said former captain Root. “It could be tomorrow one day. This is what Test cricket is all about. Dream the dream.”
For Pope, the best innings of his 41-Test career came in remarkable circumstances.
On a difficult surface, against a world-class attack and with England in a difficult situation, Pope's superb effort came in his first ever competitive game since dislocating his shoulder in July.
The Surrey man did this after showing no form in the first innings when he made a shy off 11 balls.
Root, who is the all-time leading run-scorer against India in Tests, said: “In all the tours and time I have played here, I have never seen anything like this.”
“It was an absolute masterclass in how to play in these conditions. After what he's been through, all that time away, for him to come back and perform like this shows his character and his ability as a player.”
“I’m so happy for him. He works really hard and deserves everything that comes his way.”
Indian wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta, who played eight Tests, said: “It is one of the best innings I have ever seen from a foreign batsman in India. I can’t think of many as good as this one.”
“What makes it so special is his attacking intent, the way he attacked the Indian bowlers on a very bowler-friendly surface.”
“For those who haven’t seen his innings, all I can say is that you have to find some highlights.”
Regardless of the result, Pope's knock brought back memories of a similar century scored by Alastair Cook in the first Test of England tour of India in 2012.
England lost that Test, but Cook's knock was the catalyst for a momentum that saw them win the series 2-1, the last time India were beaten at home.
“One thing that is really important for us is that this is a five-match series,” said Root, who made his Test debut on the tour in 2012.
“There is a lot of cricket to be played. We have shown that we are well placed for this series and that we have the resources and ability to compete in these conditions. Whatever happens tomorrow, we have a very good plan for what's to come.”
Root took four wickets with his off-breaks in India's first innings, partially making up for the gap left by a knee injury to leading spinner Jack Leach.
Leach threw just one pitch Saturday and is battling recurring swelling in his knee.
“Tomorrow the surface will change again,” said Root. “I can’t imagine it getting better, so whatever we do, no matter how many we get, will just be a bonus for us.”
“It will give us a real chance of achieving the result we want.”
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