India’s fastest bowler Umesh Yadav watched the third day’s play from the Lord’s balcony. It is unlikely he would have liked the picture he saw in the second Test on Saturday.
Winning the toss was a huge advantage for England, who bowled in dream seaming conditions on Friday and shot out the visitors for 107 in 35.2 overs. On Saturday, they also got to bat in ideal conditions.
Despite the first day’s play being washed out and rain curtailing Day 2, the Test hurtled forward. And the hosts were in prime position to seize a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
All-rounder Chris Woakes (120 batting) made a sensational comeback from injury to score his first Test century and with Jonny Bairstow (93) lifted England to 357/6 when bad light ended play with 16 overs left to bowl in the extended day’s play.
The 189-run sixth wicket partnership between Woakes and Bairstow punctured Indian hopes that bowlers will make amends for timid batting.
England led by 250 runs with Sam Curran (22 batting) playing freely at the other end. Despite rain forecast in the last two days, James Anderson and Co will fancy their chances of running through India’s demoralised batting line-up again.
India will rue the decision to leave out Umesh and pick chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav as second spinner when even the first, R Ashwin, had little going for him.
Everything England skipper Joe Root did clicked. It included picking Woakes, back from a quad injury, ahead of off-spinner Moeen Ali. Woakes got Virat Kohli overnight as the replacement for all-rounder Ben Stokes, and made it count after being asked to bat at No 7, ahead of Curran. Indian bowlers had done well against England’s left-handers in the Edgbaston Test, and the move proved a big success.
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Bairstow and Woakes, however, got plenty of room to hit boundaries on either side of the pitch and also straight as the pacers and spinners struggled in the afternoon.
Woakes, 29, came to bat after Mohammed Shami had removed Jos Buttler for his third wicket – all leg before – despite the ball barely swinging. England were 131/5 at point, after lunch.
Shami removed skipper Joe Root for 19 at lunch with an in-coming delivery and Buttler too fell for a similar delivery. But Woakes and Bairstow dominated as the pitch eased out.
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It exposed the Indian team management’s poor selection again.
Cheteshwar Pujara was left out in the first Test in a shaky top-order. Umesh’s omission was glaring. Shami and Ishant Sharma made early inroads, but India missed Umesh’s skiddy pace on a slow pitch.
Kuldeep was understandably nervous, especially on a sloping ground where experience is vital. Besides, R Ashwin, who struck in the ninth over in Edgbaston, was not brought on until the 39th.
As the ball grew old, Bairstow and Woakes were unstoppable. The run rate was always over four. Woakes got to the century before Hardik Pandya removed a tired Bairstow for 93 (144 b, 12×4), Dinesh Karthik taking a diving catch to his right.
India’s fightback had fizzled out. The pressure will be on their batsman, but saving the Test will be tough considering the form Anderson is in.
First Published: Aug 11, 2018 23:20 IST