Hyderabad | Ravindra Jadeja's two-layered fifty and KL Rahul’s mastery were at the heart of India's 421 for seven, a total which placed them several miles ahead of England after the second day's play of the first Test here on Friday.
Jadeja (81 batting) and Axar Patel (35 batting), who added 63 runs for the unbroken eighth-wicket stand, are at the crease at stumps.
India's lead has now swelled to 175 runs, and England would find it tough to wipe that out once their turn to bat come on third day.
But India's ascendancy to the top on a slightly tacky pitch was more tectonic and Jadeja's risk managing abilities played a huge role in it.
In one sense, the situation was ideal for the left-hander, who loves a scrap in the middle. When Jadeja came to bat, Rahul was in full flight and he joined the party with a few blows of his own.
In fact, the initial 40 balls he faced produced 35 runs as India first closed the gap with England and then swiftly moved into the lead.
But Rahul's dismissal for a 123-ball 86 forced Jadeja to transform his approach. India's lead was still only 42 then, and the home side needed him to bat long to construct more floors above that fledgling foundation.
Jadeja did precisely that. He slowed down indeed, but not to that extend of confining himself into a shell and opened up whenever England bowlers erred in their lengths.
A daring hoick off left-arm spinner Tom Hartley over long-on for a six and a flowing off-drive off leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed for a four showcased his power and touch.
England bowlers were all in spirit and optimism while bowling and appealing throughout the day, but they lacked consistency in hitting the right spot, except Joe Root, who is more than a part-timer in these conditions.
It came as no surprise then that it was Root who put Jadeja in the most unpleasant situation during his knock. The spinner wrapped Jadeja's pads and umpire Paul Reiffel upheld the shout for leg-before.
But the DRS found a massive inside edge as Jadeja survived at 49. He duly completed his 20th Test fifty in 84 balls when he peeled three runs off Root.
The only sore point during his otherwise assured stay was a calamitous mix-up which resulted in the run out of R Ashwin, as Jadeja sold a dummy, jogging a few steps before turning his back only to find his spin bowling partner standing right next to him.
Though KS Bharat (41, 81 balls) failed to kick on, the wicketkeeper batter helped Jadeja make 68 runs off 141 balls for the sixth wicket, which expanded India’s lead.
But regret will linger inside Bharat, who recently made a hundred against England Lions for India A, for he could not make his maiden Test fifty when the team was in a strong position and there was no real pressure on him.
However, Bharat will not be the only India batter who will be nursing that feeling once they glance back at the day's proceedings at the RGI Stadium.
Rahul, Shreyas Iyer and Shubman Gill all could have registered a more substantial score against their names here.
Rahul will be particularly disappointed as he was primed to score a hundred in his 50th Test. Nonetheless, his innings was marked by imperious timing and meticulous shot selection, which made it oh-so-pleasing to watch.
His fifth-wicket alliance with Jadeja produced 65 runs in just 74 balls during the middle session of play, pinning England on the back-foot. Overall, India made 87 runs during that period, losing two wickets.
The effortless partnership ended when Rahul pulled a half-tracker by Hartely to pick Ahmed, the lone fielder in the deep at mid-wicket.
Iyer (35) scratched around for a good part of his 63-ball stay and seemed to have weathered the storm, especially against pacer Mark Wood who tested him with a slew of short-pitched deliveries.
But Iyer let the opportunity to build on it slip away when he played a slog sweep of Ahmed to give a simple catch to Hartley at deep mid-wicket and the Mumbaikar will need efforts with more substance to fight for his place once Virat Kohli rejoins the squad from the third Test.
In the first session, Yashasvi Jaiswal could only add four runs to his overnight score of 76 before offering a lame return catch to Root, and had he shown a bit of patience to settle down the left-hander could have notched his second Test century.
Shubman Gill, the other overnight batter, reached 23 but a rather reckless slog sweep off Hartley ended in the hands of Ahmed at deep mid-wicket.
Fortunately for Indian team, it had the collective will to tide over those occasional setbacks to move ahead of England and push for a win from hereon.