India’s strategy when they came out with the intent to save the third Test would have been playing out James Anderson and Stuart Broad. And the way his openers went about their job early on, denying the England new-ball bowlers, the India captain would have been pretty satisfied as well.
However, to the dismay of the India dressing room, wickets fell immediately after Anderson and Broad went off the attack. Cook made his first bowling change in the 12th over and the breakthrough came immediately. Not off the new bowler, Chris Woakes, but because of suicidal cricket from the batsmen. Murali Vijay was caught short of the crease responding to a quick single after Shikhar Dhawan played a defensive push. When the aim was to save the game, it was a silly act. It was a massive setback, and the man who had batted longest against England in the series was gone.
Alastair Cook then produced a masterstroke. He introduced Moeen Ali in the very next over, the 13th, and the off-spinner nailed India’s best player of spin, Cheteshwar Pujara, the second ball. Chris Jordan, who should have been the replacement bowler, took a smart catch at slip. It was two wickets for three runs in eight balls and India were reeling at 29 for two.
The sloppy Indian performance continued and at the total of 80, Dhawan fell to part-time off-spinner Joe Root. It could have been even easier for England. They should have had Dhawan much earlier, at the total of 42. But somehow umpire Marcus Erasmus thought Moeen’s ball was missing the stumps. On replays, it looked plumb.
With the monumental task of playing out four sessions or scoring 445 for victory, it was a body blow. Until the run out, India were calmly going about their business.
England last won a Test almost a year ago. Now, with a day to go, they should be confident of correcting that sorry recent record.
It was a perfect day of cricket for the hosts. It started with Anderson making short work of the Indian tail to seal a first-innings lead of 239 runs.
Expectedly, the England captain didn’t enforce the follow-on. The goal of scoring quick runs was effortlessly led by Cook, who added 70 not out to his 95 in the first innings. It was like a glorified net session with Joe Root also helping himself to a half-century.
When England declared on 205 for four at tea, it gave them around 130 overs in four sessions to bowl out India.
The challenge facing Dhoni’s team was huge, but there were no gremlins in the wicket. Given that there has been swing on offer all through the game, the main threat had to come from Anderson.
Giving the impression of someone who knows he is likely to be out of the next Test (the disciplinary hearing is pending), Anderson was giving his all. He started from where he had left in the morning, and made the ball talk.
However, this time, India’s game plan against him was better. It was focussed on the left-hander playing him more. In another example of why Anderson doesn’t have a great record against southpaws, Dhawan was able to easily handle him while Vijay focussed on staying at the other end and keeping Broad at bay. From the fifth to 10th over, Vijay didn’t face a single ball from Anderson.
However, as it happens when the momentum is against you, the opening partnership was broken in the most frustrating manner. And, it was all downhill then on.
India lead the five-match series 1-0 after their 95-run win in the second Test at Lord's.
Live Commentary England 2nd Innings
Commentary, India 1st innings