Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 12, 2018

England vs India Second Test Day Three


Under egg shell blue skies, with a rapt crowd (and not the wrapped crowd of the previous two sodden days), Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami looked in vain for the lavish movement Jimmy Anderson and Chris Woakes found in Friday’s damp. It would, of course, be more elusive with August asserting its true character, and an early leg stump line didn’t help, as Keaton Jennings and Alastair Cook settled early nerves with bat on ball.

England progressed serenely to 28-0 when, as has happened throughout the series, a wicket came from nowhere, Shami angling one into Jennings’ front pad, pinning him plumb LBW for 11. Inexplicably, Cook advised the review – and it was hitting middle and leg, as everyone knew. It was a poor shot from Jennings, who lost his shape, yet another to be out trying to work the ball to leg. He would not be the last.

Cook (21) soon followed his fellow opener back to the pavilion, edging a near perfect Sharma delivery the line of which demanded the defensive bat, but the movement of which made the kiss through to Dinesh Karthik inevitable. Beautiful bowling from a man who was settling into his work.

Ollie Pope received a tremendous reception from the always appreciative Lord’s crowd (save Ian Botham 1981 obviously) and tucked his second ball to the square leg boundary to open his account in Test cricket. If anything, Pope looked like the man with 6000 Test runs and Joe Root the young tyro, the debutant positive in his footwork and straight in his presentation of the bat. The England captain was feeling for the ball, looking to get into his preferred busy rhythm, an aim helped by some loose stuff from Hardik Pandya, looking more a fifth seamer than a third.

Pope’s impressive cameo was concluded on 28, yet another victim of the almost compulsive collective desire to clip the ball to leg that batsmen have exhinbited over the last four sessions. The review was in vain, and England were out of that insurance policy after just 21 overs. Pandya had a somewhat unexpected notch in the wickets column.

Root (19) inexplicably played back (if his jab could be deemed a shot at all) to a length delivery from the returning Shami, who seamed it in a little to nail the England captain on the crease, neither forward nor back to one that did keep a bit low – plainly LBW with his team having burned both reviews. It was yet another poor shot in a match littered with them. Such was the incompetence on show that people wondered if it was only the dismal over rate that would ensure play tomorrow.

England resumed after lunch on 89-4 with Jos Buttler the new man, joining fellow keeper, Jonny Bairstow. It was hard to credit, but Ravichandran Ashwin had not yet had a bowl, Kohli plumping for Shami and Sharma at their favoured ends to start the session, as clouds gathered over the pavilion.

England moved into credit with the shot of the day – of the match – Bairstow driving a straight full ball slightly onside of the non-striker, the contrast with the regular repeated failed attempts to clip to midwicket as marked as it was predictable. Bairstow and Buttler were playing a different game, the footwork more positive than all their predecessors in the match, save Pope, and their confidence blossoming as a result. The slip cordon was reduced to a pair as Kohli sensed the game rapidly going away from him.

Almost inevitably, Buttler played all round his pad to be LBW to the persevering Shami. Having been shown the value of driving down the ground by Bairstow, it was a hugely disappointing way to go, his 24 a nothing score even in a low scoring match. The lead was also 24.

Woakes and Bairstow looked as comfortable as any partnership in advancing the lead into “handy” territory, helped by Kohli’s strange reluctance to toss the ball to Ashwin (323 wickets) favouring Pandya (8 wickets). Drinks brought a change of heart and the off spinner had his chance.

Bairstow was playing the innings of substance that was always likely to come from one of the England batsmen and, with Woakes playing his usual sensible hand at the other end, the lead advanced into “handy” territory with “dominant” looming. Kohli, no doubt looking around the field for Umesh Yadav but only finding his callow namesake, Kuldeep, was powerless as the runs began to flow, the game tilting towards only two results: the England win or the rain-affected draw.

England’s lead was 123 at tea with Woakes (55) cruising and Bairstow (62) with pipe and slippers on, and it looked a long way back for India, a side that looked at least one pacer short and, consequently, mentally and physically exhausted. The only respite looming was the product of an appalling over rate that would surely slice about half a dozen from the day. With the Bairstow / Woakes alliance going at above four an over with a tiring attack to flog, that would matter with a late declaration an increasingly attractive option.

With the cloudbase ever lower and the gloom surprisingly not ameliorated by the floodlights, England were that little bit more circumspect after tea, but they, unlike India yesterday, had done the hard yards in wearing down the bowlers and the runs soon flowed like Double Diamond at a Gillette Cup Final. Woakes, in particular, was imperious, blasting and then stroking Ashwin for consecutive fours, forcing Kohli to turn to Sharma, a man whom he would surely prefer to save for the new ball.

There were ones where there should have been dots, twos that should have been singles and, as always happens in these circumstances, boundaries off the edge. India weren’t quite a rabble, but England could hardly have been any more on top. Such a position is earned – even in the much more challenging batting conditions India faced, if anyone had got their head down and battled through to fifty (as Kohli did at Edgbaston) batting is always easier – nobody did.

Woakes won the private battle with Bairstow to reach three figures first, raising his maiden Test ton with a pull off a half-hearted bouncer from Pandya. The lead soon stretched above 200 with the partnership not far behind and thoughts turned to Bairstow repeating the trick and then a possible declaration. Woakes had joined a select group of seven Englishman on both Honours Boards (and he’s on the “Ten Wickets in a Match” one too), Lord’s very much his favourite ground.

It wasn’t to be for YJB, the keeper brilliantly caught by his opposite number, having flashed very hard at a wide one from Pandya, 93 runs his share of a game-changing 189 runs partnership. Bairstow, as popular as anyone amongst England players and fans, got a huge hand, acknowledgement of achievement tempered with sympathy. Karthik’s catch was lost a little in the moment, but, towards the end of a long day and under the cosh, it was a splendid effort.

The second Surrey 20-year old in the XI arrived at the crease in a very different match situation to that of his county colleague, nevertheless he immediately looked as much at home as he did at Edgbaston. India were hanging on for the new ball and runs were on offer all round the ground – Sam Curran just got on with accumulating the easy pickings, like an old pro.

It was proper dark with the lights very bright indeed when the umpires came together to send the players from the field. The score was 357-6, the lead a round 250, with Woakes on 120 and Curran 22.

It had been, as the cliché almost has it, a day of two halves, ball lording it over bat as England limped to 131-5, no batsman making fewer than 11, but none going past Pope’s 28 either. But as the ball softened and bowlers went into the third spells, batting became less problematic, then easier and ultimately a breeze for a positive Bairstow and a silky smooth Woakes. They put their team into a totally dominant position at the end of the third day, with India needing the intervention of the weather gods or that of their very own batting god to avoid going two down with three to play.

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