With the pitch flattening and the sun out, the much vaunted Indian bowling, barring skipper Jasprit Bumrah, looked toothless as Joe Root (batting 76, 110 balls, 9×4) and Jonny Bairstow (batting 72, 89 balls, 8×4) played risk-free cricket and added 150 runs in the post-tea session.
India have themselves to blame though as they had opportunities. Hanuma Vihari, strangely placed at wild second slip, with shin pads on, when better fielders in that position like Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer were available, dropped the in-form Bairstow off Mohammed Siraj on 14 when the score was 153. India’s shoulders after that chance was fluffed just dropped as Bairstow, with over 900 runs this year, made them pay.
His great mate from Yorkshire, the talismanic Joe Root, put the run out of opener Alex Lees out of his mind to produce another masterful innings where he played late and tackled Ravindra Jadeja from over the wicket into the rough, with skill. The two ran singles and twos by pushing the ball into the gaps and when the bad ball came along, which was often, they got boundaries to whittle down the target in a hurry.
The two men though have to thank their openers for the cushion they provided. 59, 31, 6, 12, 4, 17, 16. These were the opening stands that Lees and Zak Crawley had put on this summer, prior to them walking out after India were bowled out for 245. Their modest returns had sparked off a meme fest on social media and had invited widespread criticism from experts about their techniques or lack of it.
However, all that went out of the window as both Lees, who had a reputation of a strokeless wonder in the series against West Indies in March and April and Crawley looked untroubled for a good part of 21 overs. The Indian pacers, led by skipper Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur, found no movement in the air and off the surface as England raced away to 107. India’s fortunes though brightened, when after numerous unsuccessful attempts, they got the ball exchanged.
The Dukes ball, the quality of which has been criticized this summer for the regularity with which it has gone out of shape, was changed and India suddenly found a cherry that started darting around. Bumrah brought himself on and a brilliant off-cutter was left alone by Crawley and thudded into his stumps. England took tea at 107 for 1 and in the break, India seemed to have sipped on some inspiration too as they came out charged.
Bumrah dismissed Ollie Pope caught behind first ball after the break and the set opener Lees was involved in a mix up with Root and was run out. 107 for no loss became 109 for three and it was game on. But then Root and Bairstow got together and put cold water on India’s hopes. Earlier, just when both Cheteshwar Pujara (66) and Rishabh Pant (57) who had started the day at 125 for 3, looked set to take India to a position from where they could not lose, they got out when well set.
Skipper Ben Stokes mopped up the tail with three strikes post tea as India lost their last six wickets for just 55 runs.