1st Test: India's lower order delivers with bat on rainy Day 3 in Trent Bridge
- India's lower order added valuable runs, with Ravindra Jadeja's fifty and a 33-run stand for the last wicket giving the team a crucial 95-run first-innings lead against England.
Test cricket has for long conformed to a few unwritten norms, the need to compartmentalise responsibilities to the effect of having format specialists at every position being among the foremost. Openers and top order batsmen were not expected to bowl or put their bodies on the line during fielding, wicketkeepers were to only keep wicket and bowlers were hailed for putting “a price” on their wicket, nothing more.
That outlook has slowly been stripped off over time till a point where all that matters is getting the job done; inflexibility doesn’t cut it anymore. India captain Virat Kohli certainly attests to that theory. And by the looks of it - at least till stumps on Day3 with England trailing India by 70 runs - it’s paying him handsome returns.
As things stand now, a makeshift opener showed remarkable resilience steering the innings to safety, a batting all-rounder - picked ahead of the world’s best spinner - gave it much-needed momentum before India’s three fastest bowlers made a compelling case to be rebranded as a proper lower order. The primary target has been met. A lead of 95 runs was achieved, the second highest first-innings lead for India in England batting second. India couldn’t have asked for a more persuasive start to a five-match series in a country where they haven’t won a series in 14 years.
It’s been a rocky ride to this position of advantage, and rather unlikely when Rishabh Pant was dismissed with India still needing 38 to level England’s first innings. Pant was all aggression and oomph but England reminded him quickly he wouldn’t get away with it all the time. An edge through slips for a four, a top-edge over the wicketkeeper for six and that was pretty much all he could muster in his brief stay. And so the onus shifted back on KL Rahul who dutifully dropped anchor to work through 55 more deliveries as India tried out ways to find riskless runs. Enter Ravindra Jadeja.
First ball, Ollie Robinson went for Jadeja’s hips but he flicked it for a boundary. The lengths were quickly adjusted and a few pitched full and wide but Jadeja wasn’t to be tempted. He started working the gaps, squirting singles without any glitch and kept the scoreboard ticking till Sam Curran and Stuart Broad - clearly England’s weakest bowlers - gave him better lines to work with. It was all placement and timing from Jadeja, nothing too sloppy. Only once did the wily James Anderson manage to get a mishit off Jadeja’s bat but it landed safely. His urgency however picked up when Rahul was forced to edge a beautiful seaming delivery from Anderson, who could have had him twice before had it not been for England’s woeful catching in the slips.
Jadeja duly reached his fifty and threw caution to the winds but the real entertainment came after that when Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah decided to have some fun with the batting. Shortening the length in anticipation of the slogging meant England’s fast bowlers kept missing the stumps while the Indians kept executing crisp, clean, cross-batted shots. Shami looked resolute, Siraj drilled a boundary down the pitch but it was Bumrah who hurt England the most with 33 off 26 balls, including a massive six over square-leg.