India 338 for 7 (Pant 146, Jadeja 83*, Anderson 3-52, Potts 2-85) vs England
Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell may have left the UK, but the narrative arc they established during New Zealand’s just-concluded Test tour continues to define the 2022 English summer. From the despair of 98 for 5, India roared back through the sixth-wicket heroics of Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja, who put on 222 off just 239 balls.
On a rain-interrupted day in which only 73 overs were possible, India galloped to 338 for 7 at the rate of 4.63 per over. Bazball? Well, Rishabh Pant was doing it long before the term was coined, and he moves to no one else’s rhythm but his own. He scored his fifth Test hundred and his second in England, a breathtaking 146 off just 111 balls.
Jadeja, meanwhile, began his innings with India in considerable strife and calmed the dressing room down with an innings of crisp driving and discipline outside off stump. At close of play, he was still batting on 83.
Seven overs remain before the second new ball is due, and while India’s first-innings total is already well within the realms of respectability, it is by no means a safe one. Their hopes of getting to 375 or beyond rest with Jadeja, and how much support he can get from their brittle bottom three.
All through this summer, the Dukes ball has softened after the 30-over mark or thereabouts and become far less of a threat to batters. This was certainly a contributor to India’s fightback, but another possible factor – and a far more worrying one for the home team – may have been England’s lack of bowling depth, and their over-reliance on the ageless and peerless James Anderson.
With a two-hour rain break – which included the 40 minutes of an early lunch – allowing him to rest his legs when the ball was still new, Anderson bowled 15 of the first 35 overs of the day. But he only bowled four of the last 38 overs, a time when England could have done with their other bowlers stepping up.
Instead, England’s third and fourth specialist bowlers conceded 156 runs in just 26 overs. While Matthew Potts‘ day unraveled after an encouraging start – he took the wickets of Hanuma Vihari and Virat Kohli – Jack Leach had an entirely forgettable time of it, as Pant – by no means for the first time – toyed mercilessly with him.
Pant took 59 runs off Leach, off just 32 balls, and 46 of these runs came through the leg side despite the left-arm spinner bowling with six fielders on that side of the wicket, including three protecting the boundary. He launched the ball thrillingly down the ground, as you might expect, but the highlight of Pant’s takedown of Leach was probably the way he manipulated his quicker, flatter change-ups by sinking halfway onto his back knee and sweeping, swiping or swatting him either side of deep backward square leg. He was quite likely lbw if he missed, but at no time did he seem remotely likely to miss.
Pant got through almost his entire repertoire of shots against both spin and pace – there was a not-quite-middled repeat of his reverse-scoop over the slips off Anderson, for instance, and a straight hit off Leach that ended with batter lying flat on his back – but the most brilliant bits of his strokeplay were from the more textbook end of the spectrum, none better than a pair of scorching back-foot punches off Potts.
These two shots came during a passage of play immediately after tea when India wrested the momentum entirely away from England, with Potts conceding 37 runs in a five-over spell, only to give way to the even more expensive Leach, who eventually ended the day nursing figures of 9-0-71-0. At the other end, Anderson and then Stuart Broad could only apply so much salve.
Eventually it was Joe Root who dismissed Pant, finding the edge with a clever change of pace immediately after being hit for a straight six. Ben Stokes dismissed Shardul Thakur soon after with a sharp bouncer, giving England a welcome sight of India’s tail after being under the pump for so long.
England couldn’t have envisaged the day ending in that manner given how it had begun. Overhead conditions – and the afterglow of their back-to-back-to-back successful run-chases against New Zealand – prompted Stokes to bowl first, and Anderson justified that choice by dismissing both openers.
Shubman Gill got going with three sweetly timed early boundaries, but always seemed a little vulnerable to feeling for the ball outside off stump. He survived two edges that fell short of the cordon, but had no such luck on 17, when he pushed away from his body at a ball from Anderson that straightened from just short of a length.
Cheteshwar Pujara, back in the Test XI but opening rather than batting at No. 3, made a typically solid start against testing bowling, but having seen off 45 balls, he got a peach from Anderson that he could do little about: an outswinger angling into the stumps initially before curving away late with extra bounce. At second slip, Zak Crawley, who had just put down Vihari off Potts, held on to this far simpler chance that came straight to him off the shoulder of Pujara’s bat.
Then, after the two-hour weather interruption, Potts got two wickets in two overs, trapping Vihari plumb with a nip-backer before having Kohli bowled off his inside edge when he was caught in two minds between playing and leaving.
India were in intense strife at 71 for 4, and it only deepened after a short, stroke-filled and ultimately unconvincing innings from Shreyas Iyer, when Anderson aimed at his ribcage and got him to glove down the leg side. The efforts of Mitchell and Blundell may have cautioned England against celebrating too much at this point, but surely even they couldn’t see the same thing happening all over again?