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Playing this series was my target: Aaron

Indian fast bowler feels a 100-run lead will be manageable for India

Varun Aaron made his Test debut in November 2011, and then spent the next two and a half years recovering from a back injury. Now he’s back, bowling at fierce speed and troubling the England batsmen in the Old Trafford Test.

Before heavy rain and the subsequent wet outfield resulted in a curtailed second day, Aaron picked up three wickets from 16 overs. He dismissed Alastair Cook, Gary Ballance and Moeen Ali to help India claw back into the match after being skittled out for 152.

At the end of Day-2, Aaron said playing in this series was a goal he had set himself when he was recuperating from injury.

“When I got operated a year and a half back in London, playing this series was one of my targets,” Aaron said. “I am glad I am here, finally playing again and that I’ve had a decent match so far.

“I was bowling a lot in the nets when I wasn’t playing and I felt good even then. I am glad I could carry that rhythm into the match.”

The road back was a tough and painful one for the 24-year-old fast bowler. But he said having the right people around him made the process easier.

“I was really lucky to have a good support system. The BCCI really backed me during my surgery and my prolonged rehabilitation at the NCA. I also did really good work at the MRF foundation.

“After the surgery I was walking on thin ice in my attempt to come back and bowl fast again. I had great physios and trainers around me who made my road to recovery very easy,” he said.

Despite the various stress fractures, Aaron never thought of compromising on his pace. And that’s what makes him an asset to have amid the medium pace bowlers in the team.

“There is no role as such but there is a clear message – I have to bowl quick. The length of my spell depends on the situation. Bowling a six-over spell is not a problem but yes, short spells are always better,” he said.

The highlight of the second day’s play at the Old Trafford was the delivery with which Aaron got rid of Moeen Ali. He rattled Ali with a sharp bouncer and followed it up with a vicious in-swinger that knocked off Ali’s stumps. Aaron said it was his ploy to ruffle Ali up with short-pitched bowling.

“He did have a problem against the short ball in the previous two Tests,” Aaron said. “I watched those dismissals from the sidelines and I knew that if I bowled a couple of good bouncers, it might be tough for him. A good bouncer followed by a sharp full delivery is always an effective option.”

As the match goes into the third day, England have a lead of 85 runs with four wickets in hand. While admitting the hosts have their noses slightly up, Aaron said things could change very quickly in the morning session.

“England are ahead in the game right now but not by a vast margin,” he said. “If we have some quick wickets, even a 100-odd run lead is quite manageable on this wicket.

“The wicket has changed drastically from what we saw in the first session of the Test and I am sure it will get flatter as we progress.”

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Report: England vs India, 4th Test - Day 2

Root steadies England after early strikes by Bhuvneshwar

England were leading by 85 runs with four wickets in hand at stumps on the second day at Old Trafford. After a slow start to the day with the loss of three wickets, Joe Root (48*) dropped anchor to help England stay on course. The middle-order batsman was supported by Jos Buttler (22*) in helping the team surpass India's first innings total and build a lead until rain interrupted play and couldn’t be resumed. In an unbroken 67-run partnership the duo had taken the team to 237/6 when play was called off on Friday.

Earlier, the hosts, who were cruising along in the final session of Day 1, were slowed down in the first hour of Day 2 by the Bhuvneshwar Kumar-led attack. The wiry pacer removed both the overnight batsmen – Ian Bell and Chris Jordon upfront and plugged the flow of runs.

Jordon was the first to be sent back to the pavilion. The night-watchman perished pulling a short ball to the midwicket area where Aaron took a good catch. Four runs later, Ian Bell who had brought up his half-century in the morning was the next to be sent back. Having whizzed past the middle-order batsman’s willow on the previous ball bowling the off-stump line, Bhuvneshwar got the next delivery to take the edge off Bell’s bat before being caught safely by Dhoni.

With the hosts still 12 short of India’s 152-run first innings score, Ali joined Root in helping the team overcome the deficit.

Ali who had been troubled by the short ball earlier in the series was then peppered by the Indians with the short stuff. Although he sent a couple of them sailing to the fence it also kept him on his toes. A while later Aaron who had been hitting the deck hard since the morning, disrupted Ali’s woodwork with a fuller one to leave England on 170/6.

With the pace duo of Bhuvneshwar and Aaron turning things around for India, the India captain rotated and kept them in the mix to maintain pressure on the opposition. However, Root and Buttler held their ground and watchfully took the team to lunch at 201/6.

Resuming the innings post-Lunch, the Root-Buttler pair had added 36 runs to the total when rain interrupted play. Root who is turning out to be a vital cog in the England line-up once again displayed the ability to hold up one end as he garnered runs. With only nine overs bowled in the second session showers halted play.

Brief scores:

Day 1: India 1st inn 152 all out in 46.4 overs (MS Dhoni 71, R Ashwin 40, S Broad 6/25, J Anderson 3/46); England 1st inn 113/3 in 35 overs (I Bell 45*, G Ballance 37, V Aaron 2/26)

Day 2: England 1st inn 237/6 in 71 overs (I Bell 58, J Root 48*, B Kumar 3/47)