By Amlan Chakraborty
HYDERABAD, India (Reuters) -Ollie Pope combined with Tom Hartley to pull off a heist in Hyderabad where England humbled India in the opening test on Sunday, displaying their entertaining brand of cricket that has injected new life into the format.
England's thrilling 28-run victory, that came in an extended final session on the penultimate day at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, will go down as one of their finest away wins ever.
Under captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon 'Baz' McCullum, England have championed a fearless brand of cricket that puts entertainment over outcome over the last couple of years.
Their 'Bazball' approach faced its toughest test against India, who have not lost a test series at home since 2012.
India had lost only three of their previous 46 home tests and, for the first two days of the match, England looked ill-equipped to change that trend as they conceded a huge lead of 190.
To make it worse for the tourists, their lead spinner Jack Leach was hobbling having hurt his knee twice during fielding.
England vice captain Pope then conjured up arguably the best knock by a touring batter in India, smashing an epic 196 to propel England to 420 in the second innings.
The 26-year-old scooped and swept with impunity during his six-and-a-half-hour masterclass on how to smother spin on turning tracks on the Indian sub-continent.
"I haven't seen a better exhibition of sweeping and reverse sweeping ever in these conditions against that quality of bowling," India coach Rahul Dravid said.
Pope's knock, the only hundred in the match, allowed England to set India a tricky target of 231 before Hartley took over.
The left-arm spinner, who had bled 131 runs in his 25 overs in the first innings of his debut test, claimed 7-62 in his second to seal what captain Ben Stokes called the greatest victory under his leadership.
After India's frontline batters let down the hosts, Ravichandran Ashwin and Srikar Bharat forged a half-century stand before their lower order caved in and they were all out for 202.
With a result in sight, the session had been extended by half an hour and, fittingly, Hartley sealed England's win when India number 11 Mohammed Siraj charged out only to be stumped.
England's victory came hours after West Indies had stunned world champions Australia in Brisbane and both contests proved a great advertisement for the long format which has been reeling under the onslaught of franchise cricket.
Stokes has been harping on the need to make test cricket more exciting and the England captain explained why he thought it was their best win under his leadership.
"We've had some incredible victories but considering where we are and who we playing against, the position we found ourselves going into our second innings... it's a big reason as to why I feel this is our best victory since I've been captain."
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Clare Fallon)