RAHANE REGAINS TOUCH AND VIRAT AJINKYA AS EVER

After a comprehensive English victory at Lord’s, the action shifted to Trent Bridge. The visitors arrived at Nottingham with slightly better yet windy conditions. Being 2-0 behind in a series, India needed to start afresh. England decided to field after winning the toss for the third consecutive time. After a terrible outing at Lord’s, changes were on the cards for this crucial encounter and India made 3 of them. Shikhar Dhawan came in for a struggling Murali Vijay, a young Rishabh Pant replaced Dinesh Karthik and Jasprit Bumrah made a comeback at the expense of The Chinaman, Kuldeep Yadav. The pitch had a nice grass covering which would suit the seamers initially but after it dries out, spinners could play a part later on.

Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul provided India with a good, solid start – something that India were missing badly. A partnership of 61 runs that lasted 18.4 overs was by far the highest opening stand in this series for India. The partnership was eventually broken by Chris Woakes with an away swinger which took the edge off Dhawan’s bat to second slip. Rahul soon followed suit as he was trapped in front by Woakes. After another start, Cheteshwar Pujara found a new way of getting out. A pull shot off a short of length delivery went straight into the hands of deep backward square leg leaving Pujara shell-shocked. There was only one fielder in the deep and Pujara could not have picked him out any better.  It was indeed a gift of a wicket to the hosts, yet was an unfortunate end to Pujara’s brief innings.

India found themselves in an unwanted situation yet again as Ajinkya Rahane joined skipper Kohli in the middle. The ball was doing a bit and it was another battle for survival for the Indian batsmen. After a shaky start, runs started to flow of the bat. Suddenly the ball seemed to swing lesser and made batting look slightly easy and India capitalized on that. Kohli and Rahane put on a terrific 159 run partnership to bring the visitors back in the game. After a pretty long time, India looked comfortable against the English attack. While Virat has been batting like a dream, Rahane showed great character and determination to stay on the wicket. And once he got the measure of the wicket and the conditions, runs started to come easily. Both the batsmen looked at ease and got to their fifties in style. Just when he looked like getting a big one, Stuart Broad dismissed Rahane on 81 to break a delightful partnership. It was a wonderful batting effort from India’s vice-captain after his initial struggles against the moving ball. His partnership with the captain had brought India back in the game.

Hardik Pandya walked into the middle as skipper Kohli was nearing yet another hundred. However, his masterful innings was cut short by the leg-spinner Rashid when Virat edged a loopy leg break outside off into the hands of first slip. It was a heart-breaking end to yet another wonderful innings from the Indian Captain.

Debutant Rishabh Pant then joined Hardik Pandya in the middle. Pant announced his arrival by smashing only his second ball in test cricket for a straight six off a googly from Adil Rashid to become the 12th man in Test history to hit six as a first scoring shot. He put on a quick stand of 28 with Hardik before the latter was dismissed by Jimmy Anderson with his customary outswinger to finish the day on 307/6. With that wicket, Anderson became the second bowler after Muralitharan to have picked 100 wickets against India.

It was one of the better days for India on this tour. After a solid start from the openers, the wickets fell in quick succession. However, two men with great character turned the things around for India with a defiant 159 run stand. Pandya and Pant did well to see off the second new ball until Hardik was done in with an Anderson special. Come tomorrow, the hosts will be looking to finish off the innings quickly while India will look to add some useful runs and reach 400 to get in a comfortable state against the hosts. At the moment things look even stevens as we await another exciting day’s cricket.

BY PRASAD PALKAR

A SPORTSNASHA EXCLUSIVE