After the first day was lost entirely to rain, James Anderson, expertly utilising conditions ideally suited to his swing bowling, claimed 5/20 as India were bowled out for 107 on a truncated but entertaining day at Lord’s.
The key moment came even before a ball had been bowled at the toss, which England’s captain Joe Root won. He elected to bowl without hesitation, with the overcast conditions seemingly ideally suited to his cabal of swingers and seamers.
There have been few bowlers in history as adept at extracting and directing sideways movement as Anderson, and it took him just five deliveries to start to repay his captain’s faith, bowling Murali Vijay with a beauty. The usually-watchful opener did his cause no favours by aiming through the leg-side instead of offering a straight bat, but considering how far the ball moved away and the lateness of the movement, it was probably only the difference between being bowled and offering a chance to the slips.
KL Rahul, opening in this game with Cheteshwar Pujara having replaced Shikhar Dhawan, soon became another victim of Anderson’s. He was close to blameless, getting a healthy stride in and offering a straight bat, but Anderson found the outside edge regardless.
In walked Virat Kohli in the seventh over to resume his tantalising battle with Anderson. He played and missed at the first before dropping the second at his feet and scampering a single. He was soon scampering for cover as the first rain break of the day came.
Only 12 balls were possible during the following six and a half hours as the rain lashed it down, but that was enough time for England to claim another wicket. Pujara was the victim, run out after being sold down the river by his captain. All England debutant Ollie Pope had to do was gather the ball and take off the bails. He was followed back to the pavilion by Kohli and England’s fielders as the heavens truly opened with India in trouble at 15/3.
After the resumption followed India’s highest partnership of the innings between Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, who have proved themselves their country’s most capable batsmen in seaming conditions. Though the latter was dropped off Stuart Broad in the slips, they started to look increasingly comfortable, but Chris Woakes’ introduction changed that.
Kohli in particular struggled against the right-armer, recalled in place of the absent Ben Stokes. Twice in three balls Woakes had India’s captain edging just in front of the slips, and he almost had his man as a late decision to leave saw Kohli edge it low to Jos Buttler’s left at second slip.
The MRF Tyres No. 1 ranked Test batsman had given England a lesson in why they shouldn’t drop him the match prior, but this time the error cost only the four runs that came from the original edge, as Woakes once again found the edge the very next ball, the chance pocketed this time by a grateful Buttler.
The floodgates opened. Woakes had another in his next over in eerily similar circumstances, also caught by Buttler at slip having been missed by him the ball before, before Sam Curran produced the ball of the day to dismiss Dinesh Karthik. So far did the ball swing back in that the commentators were convinced the wicket-keeper had inside-edged it.
Ravichandran Ashwin entered and threatened to swashbuckle India to respectability. He flashed hard, and considering the difficulties India had run into when defending, his strategy was understandable. Rahane’s dismissal, nicking an Anderson away-swinger, only spurred him on as he picked off Broad twice in two balls, but the beanpole seamer soon had his revenge, curving one back into his pads two balls after Anderson had done the same to Kuldeep Yadav.
With India nine down, the only questions were whether India would reach three figures, and whether England would have to face an unenviable solitary over before stumps. Mohammed Shami did his best to make sure both aims were achieved, swinging blindly, but his edges swirled high and safe to take India past 100 and confirm the end of India’s innings would also bring about the end of the day’s play.
Two balls past the deadline, Anderson pinned Ishant Sharma in front to complete his five-wicket haul and bring to an end a near-perfect day for England. Though only 35.2 overs have been possible across the first two days, England’s seamers have done enough to suggest a result is still very much on the cards. India have it all to do to ensure they aren’t once again on the wrong end of it.