Rahane, Pujara resistance ended as England hold the edge in Lord’s Test
The frustration was caught on camera, through the dressing room window, as Virat Kohli flung something after getting out. When he walked out to bat at the fall of Rohit Sharma’s wicket, the conditions had turned good for batting with the sun having broken through. He got the start too, hitting three crisp fours and another one past third man. But to his dismay he again edged a ball well outside off-stump. It was a blow from which India never really recovered, handing over the advantage to England going into the final day of the second Test at Lord’s.
Within 24 overs, India had let their chances substantially diminish with the top three batsmen gone at the total of 55.
It was left to Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara to salvage the situation. With both under tremendous pressure after a string of low scores, it was mainly about survival first and the result of the match took the back seat. They put on a 100-run partnership before falling in quick succession to hand over the advantage to England. A 61 from Rahane and Pujara’s obdurate 45 (206 balls) were the only positives for India.
At the end of the fourth day, India were 181/6 in the second innings with Rishabh Pant, their only batting hope, on 14. Mark Wood was the pick of the bowlers with 3/40, restricting India to a lead of 154. Moeen Ali chipped in by removing Rahane and then Ravindra Jadeja (3).
After leading England’s batting with an epic 180*, Joe Root pulled off some smart moves in the field to help England take control of the game within an hour of the start. While India’s main focus was on finding a way to negate the swing of James Anderson, the England captain stunned them by using Wood as a surprise weapon.
On the four days of play at Trent Bridge and the first two days here, the home team had been essentially chased the game. It was mainly due to the starts provided by Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul. There was everything to play for in the first session. Another solid opening partnership and the pressure would be on the home team. Sharma and Rahul started ominously; the former was timing the ball beautifully and his partner was showing good judgement of the off-stump. But Root had a perfect plan.
He lulled the batsmen with two overs of Ollie Robinson before summoning Wood. While it looked the change was made because the tall fast bowler looked flat, there was a shrewd strategy behind it. Confident against the moving ball, then rattle the batsmen with pace. Wood was charging in from ball one, maintaining a pace of 145kph plus.
First, Rahul’s solid front foot game was done in by a short of length ball by Wood which caught him at the crease, inducing the edge. A trap was laid on the leg-side with three fielders for Sharma’s love for the pull and hook. The flamboyant opener took the bait, and two overs later was caught at deep square-leg.
His openers having suffered the first failure of the series, it was crucial to India’s chances that their premier batsman and captain take charge. With not much to separate between the two teams after the first innings, the day had started with both fancying their chances.
At 27/2, it was a situation tailor-made for Kohli to hit form and restore order. A cover drive off Wood in the second over after he had come to the crease, followed by another off Anderson, and it looked like that. To his dismay, after hitting four fours to reach 20, Kohli edged a ball well outside off-stump from Sam Curran to slip. It was the third time Kohli had been caught off the edge in the series. The cheap dismissal came after he was sledged by Anderson, with whom he has a running battle, and who had marred his start to the series by dismissing him first ball at Trent Bridge.
In the first innings too, he couldn’t go on after being set, out for 42 by edging Robinson. Kohli’s scores in the series now are 0, 42 and 20. What makes it glaring is that at the other corner, Root has made 64, 109 and 180* in his three innings.
For long recognised as the premier batsman among the Fab Four—Steve Smith, Kane Williamson and Root being the others—it will be a bitter pill to swallow for the India star.
After winning in Australia, India were tipped to put it across England mainly based on their captain carrying the team’s batting on his shoulders. Everyone was expecting a repeat of his 2018 show when runs flowed off Kohli’s blade and he finished with 593 runs with two hundreds and three half-centuries.
To his fans’ disappointment, he has so far been eclipsed by his counterpart as the weakness of a fifth-stump line seems to have resurfaced for the India captain like in 2014, when he was restricted to 39 runs in five Tests and 10 innings at an average of 13.40. This time he is getting the starts but has been unable to cash in.
While Root has got back to back hundreds, Kohli is searching for his first century since November 2019, when he got 136 versus Bangladesh. In 2021, he averages 27.10 in seven Tests. The dip in form started from the New Zealand series early in 2020, when he averaged 19.33 in the three Tests he played.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.