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IND vs ENG 1st Test – Day 3: Seamers Star, But India Kept Waiting

By on July 12, 2014

England 352 for 9 (Root 78*, Ballance 71, Robson 59, Bhuvneshwar 4-61) trail India 457 by 105 runs…

It was just like the second day. England’s batsmen dominated the first session, India’s bowlers took a clump of wickets in the second session, and England’s lower order frustrated the bowlers after tea.

IND vs ENG 1st Test - Day 3: Bhuvneshwar KumarIndia were on the verge of taking a massive lead and possibly bowling England out short of the follow-on mark before Joe Root averted the danger along with the lower order to end the day unbeaten on 78.

Root put on 78 with Stuart Broad, and an unbroken 54 with No. 11 James Anderson as England ended the day trailing by 105.

The pitch remained slow and unresponsive through the third day, but India’s seamers got more out of it by bowling a much straighter line.

Where India’s batsmen defended 288 balls from England’s seamers and left 257 balls alone, England’s batsmen, by stumps, had defended 175 balls and only left 87 alone.

It took until the 33rd over of the day, and the second over of the post-lunch session, for India to taste any success.

It came from Ishant Sharma, who got the ball to duck back in from a good length to make Robson pay for staying stuck in his crease. The ball hit his front pad before cannoning onto his back pad and umpire Bruce Oxenford had little hesitation in giving him out, even if Hotspot picked up what might have been a faint inside edge.

The umpires changed the ball two overs later, after it looked to have gone out of shape. And the replacement, much to India’s delight, showed itself far more responsive to the clouds that had gathered overhead, after two clear days.

Ishant immediately got it to curl late into the left-handed Gary Ballance and ping him on the front pad – this time, there was absolutely no doubt about the decision. Only two Indian batsmen had been dismissed bowled or lbw. All of England’s top three had been dismissed with no help from fielders.

Ian Bell caressed his way to 25 before he fell victim to indecision, bottom-edging Ishant to the keeper while trying to withdraw his bat from a short, rising ball outside off.

Indifferent bounce consumed Moeen Ali ten overs later, when he took his eyes of a Mohammed Shami bouncer that didn’t quite rise as expected and ended up gloving the ball to slip.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar came to the party with ten minutes to go for tea, swinging the ball away from the right-handed Matt Prior and then the left-handed Ben Stokes to have both caught behind. Prior had reason to feel aggrieved by his dismissal, with replays showing a fair sliver of daylight between ball and outside edge.

After tea, Broad went after the bowling, driving and slashing on the up through the off side. Despite the old ball doing a bit, India took the new ball two overs after it was due, and the runs came even quicker, Broad striking five fours in the first two new-ball overs.

The mood rubbed off on Root as well, and he got in an uncharacteristically big front-foot stride to drive Bhuvneshwar sweetly through the off side.

Just when the partnership was assuming dangerous proportions, Bhuvneshwar got one to straighten from leg stump and hit Broad’s front pad in front of leg stump. He had his fourth wicket seven overs later, when he nipped one back to bowl Liam Plunkett.

India still had Anderson to get past, though. In his last Test match against Sri Lanka, he had blocked out 54 balls before being dismissed two balls short of saving the match and the series.

Here, he came out with a different approach. Root initially farmed the strike, placing the ball adroitly into the outfield to take the singles that India gifted him with their deep fields.

Given the strike, Anderson went for his shots, punching Bhuvneshwar through the covers, reverse-sweeping Jadeja, and only looking uncomfortable when the fast bowlers dug it in. Root and Anderson batted for 14.3 overs, and could yet overhaul the 111 runs that Bhuvneshwar and Shami, India’s last-wicket pair, had put on on the second day.

In the morning session, Robson and Ballance had looked largely untroubled, and had seemed by lunch to have won the contest of patience against India’s seamers.

Ballance took guard outside the crease to negate the effect of his extravagant back-and-across trigger movement and get relatively close to the pitch of the ball when the bowlers drew him forward. Robson got nicely on top of the ball when he defended off the front foot, and even Bhuvneshwar’s inswing, by and large, didn’t cause his head to fall over.

The only chance in the session came when Robson, on 43, inside-edged Ravindra Jadeja as he tried to work the ball around the corner. Virat Kohli dived to his left from leg slip and got his fingers under the ball but couldn’t hold on.

The bowlers lost some of their discipline late in the session, and Ballance capitalised to beat Robson to fifty. There had been no fours for 12 overs before Ballance took three off one Ishant over, two clipped off his legs and one slapped past backward point.

Stuart Binny, who replaced Ishant from that end, released a little more of the pressure, leaking four boundaries in his first three overs, and both batsmen reached their 50s with steered fours down to third man off him.

Binny didn’t bowl in the second session, and only sent down one over after tea, and with Jadeja threatening to play a bigger role in England’s second innings, India may come to wonder if they should have gone with an extra spinner.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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