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Report: England vs India, 2nd Test - Day 3

Vijay keeps India's hopes alive of setting England a tough chase

India were leading by 145 at the end of Day 3 at Lord’s after the Bhuvneshwar Kumar-led attack bowled England out for 319 in the morning. After losing Shikhar Dhawan early in the innings, Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara batted watchfully taking the visitors to 118 until Liam Plunkett struck.

The pacer who had earlier in the day anchored England’s innings to build a slender lead claimed two in two to tip the game in hosts favour. And Stuart Broad was fortunate to get the better of Ajinkya Rahane five runs later to push India on the back-foot.

Tasked with the responsibility of rebuilding the Indian innings Vijay (59*) and MS Dhoni (12*) had taken India to 169/4 at stumps.

Earlier, Bhuvneshwar became the second Indian cricketer in the match to make it to the Lord’s honours board. While Rahane scored a century in the first innings to make it to the batsman’s list, the pacer picked six wickets to join the list of bowlers. After claiming England’s top four batsmen on Day 2, he picked Ben Stokes as his fifth scalp to make it to the prestigious list. He finished with 6/82 in the innings as England were bowled out for 319.

Plunkett and Matt Prior added 46 runs to the overnight total while the Indian pace trio bowled their hearts out in search of a breakthrough. The pair were scoring with ease until Mohammed Shami got the better of England’s wicketkeeper-batsman to end the partnership for 51. The ball took the edge off the bat and went high in the air behind the batsman and Dhawan caught the offering.

With the hosts’ trailing by 30 runs, Stokes walked out to the middle but was soon done in by Bhuvneshwar’s swing. Broad then replaced him at the crease and hit the bowler to the fence to get off the mark. But, those were the only runs he scored. The lower-order batsman edged the next delivery to the slips to depart for four.

With England on 280/9 James Anderson joined Plunkett to help close in on the Indian total. With a boundary over mid-off off Bhuvneshwar, the No 11 took the home team past India’s first innings score.

Plunkett soon brought up his maiden Test fifty as the pair looked to add to the lead. They had extended it to 24 runs until Ravindra Jadeja struck to end the innings. Anderson reverse swept the left-arm spinner only to hand a catch to the slips and return for 19.

With Murali Vijay yet to open his account and Shikhar Dhawan scoring taken 10 runs, India were trailing by 13 runs with all wickets intact at Lunch.

Resuming the innings, India first overhauled the deficit and readied for setting up the game. However, once again they lost Dhawan early in the innings. A brilliant diving catch at point by Joe Root saw the left-hand batsman return for 31.

Cheteshwar Pujara then joined the cautious Vijay in the middle. With the match hanging in balance, the Indian batsmen needed to bide their time before taking on the English bowlers. The pair were content to defend and put a price on their wicket as England pace quartet hit the deck hard.

Vijay and Pujara continued to judiciously leave deliveries and patiently graft runs as they worked to a solid foundation for the visitors. Both the batsmen carefully built a partnership and had settled in. However, just before drinks, Plunkett dealt a severe blow, ending the partnership for 78 and triggering a mini-collapse, which took the wind out of India’s sails.

Pujara departed nicking the delivery outside the off-stump to return for 43 while Plunkett dislodged Virat Kohli’s bails with an inswinger handing him a golden duck.

Ajinkya Rahane opened his account with a sweetly timed four to third man. But, with just five against his name, he too returned to the dressing room soon after drinks. A short delivery from Broad bounced off Rahane’s arm guard and Prior running to his left covered a lot of ground and took a diving catch to leaving India on 123/4.

With the lead all of 99 runs, Dhoni joined Vijay in effort to revive the Indian innings. The Indian opener who had plodded his way through the innings reached a well deserved half-century with a boundary to Anderson.

Brief scores:

Day 1:
Ind 1st inn 290/9 in 90 overs (A Rahane 103, B Kumar 36, J Anderson 4/55, S Broad 2/79)

Day 2: Ind 1st inn 295 all out in 91.4 overs (M Shami 19, B Stokes 2/40); Eng 1st inn 219 in 86 overs (G Balance 110, B Kumar 4/46)

Day 3: Eng 1st inn 319 all out in 105.5 overs (L Plunkett 55*, B Kumar 6/82); Ind 2nd inn 169/4 in 63 overs (M Vijay 59*, MS Dhoni 12*, L Plunkett 2/23)

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Best bowling day as group: Bhuvi

India pacer cherishes life-long dream of picking up wickets at Lord’s

Seven days into the England Test series Bhuvneshwar Kumar leads India’s batting (71.50) and bowling (14.22) averages. So far he has scored 157 runs and taken nine wickets which include two half-centuries and a five-for. His figures in the Lord’s Test so far are 4 for 46 and with four of England’s wickets remaining in the innings, Bhuvi is on the cusp of back-to-back five-wicket hauls.

Picking wickets at Lord’s, Bhuvi said, was his childhood dream. And he will be motivated to make his first appearance at the historic ground special by having his name on the honours board.

“I have been watching Lord’s matches on TV since childhood and ever since then it was a dream to come here,” Bhuvi said. “It is a great feeling to have picked up wickets here and also score those crucial 36 runs. However, right not I am focused on ensuring that we take the remaining wickets early tomorrow.”

Bhuvi bowled sensationally well throughout the day, sending down 23 overs for only 46 runs. His figures don’t reflect the conditions and the nature of the wicket as much as they tell of his discipline and single-mindedness.

The very pitch that was hard to tell from the lush green outfield when England bowled on the first day, looked browner and balder on day-two. The bite was relatively low, the ball swung much less and the beaming sun came to the batsmen’s rescue. But Bhuvi made the most of whatever was available from the pitch with his unwavering execution of his game-plan and sticking the motto, “on supportive wicket you have to be more disciplined.”

“The wicket eased out a lot today and the ball didn’t swing like it did yesterday. It is much easier to bat on now,” Bhuvi said. “But there’s still a lot in there if you bowl in the right areas.”

“I think it was our best day of bowling as a bowling group because despite the conditions being more in favour of the batsmen, we really kept them quiet and stopped them from scoring freely,” Bhuvi said.

While his bowling was brilliant, Bhuvi’s impact on the Test began much before he bowled his first ball. His contribution begun with a 90-run partnership with Ajinkya Rahane for the eighth wicket, batting on the green pitch. It wasn’t surprising that he rated his 36-run stint at Lord’s higher than the two fifties he got in Nottingham.

“I am enjoying batting in England. Scoring runs in Test cricket is very special. The partnership with Ajinkya was, in particular, very satisfying. We were in difficult situation and the conditions were tough. For me it is the best innings I have played so far.”