India 290-9 (Rahane 103, Anderson 4-55)
Upon arrival on English shores in June, the microscope was firmly honed in on two Indian batsmen, as the tourists began their quest to win their first test series away from home since 2011. Cheteshwar Pujara, seen as Rahul Dravid mark two, and Virat Kohli, one of the world’s most devilish young talents, were pinpointed as the two key batsmen for MS Dhoni’s team on a notoriously difficult tour.
In comparison to India’s two bright hopes, there was no real pressure resting on the shoulders of Ajinkya Rahane, an unassuming middle order batsman with just one test century against New Zealand to his name. Yet it was the man from Maharashtra who saved his team with a supremely graceful century on day one of the second test at Lords.
Rahane, yet another graduate from the Indian one day side, looked right at home on an uncommonly green wicket, happy to play on the front foot yet equally capable of punishing the all too frequent short ball from the England bowlers. His ability to shift through the gears after a watchful start meant his side had the better of the day, with his dismissal just before the close failing to take the shine off a wonderful knock.
For England, a day that promised so much once again ended in an unsatisfactory manner, with the last session costing 150 runs for just three wickets. A good afternoon session was neutralised by two poor bowling performances in the morning and the evening, after Alistair Cook had gleefully asked his opposite number to bat on a pitch that was sure to offer plenty after five turgid days at Trent Bridge. The most baffling aspect of England’s bowling masterplan was Liam Plunkett’s decision to bowl round the wicket and dig the ball in short shortly after tea, when there was plenty of reward for full bowling around off stump. Plunkett, a capable bowler, must learn how to play the situation. On wickets like this he must have more than a mean short ball in his armoury.
The opening spell from James Anderson and Stuart Broad was wayward, apart from one hooping delivery from Anderson that slanted across Shikhar Dhawan and took his edge, Gary Ballance taking a good low catch. Murali Vijay and Pujara were rarely made to play outside off stump for the ball, and England seemed unable to capitalise on helpful conditions. They somewhat fortuitously picked up a second before lunch, Plunkett taking Vijay’s edge after the opener tried to force the ball into the leg side. It was another smart catch from Ballance, who looks right at home in England’s slip cordon.
Despite losing two wickets the morning session was shaded by India, especially after Matt Prior failed to hold onto the final ball before lunch after Moeen Ali had induced the edge from Kohli, ending a bad session for Cook’s trusted lieutenant. Prior still looks to be struggling with his troublesome right Achilles heel. Luckily for him the drop just before lunch didn’t prove too costly, as Kohli edged a full Anderson ball, continuing his poor start to the series. England seemed to be atoning for their morning’s errors, and three wickets fell for just 15 runs as the home side seized control. Pujara, who had toiled his way to 28, was undone by a lovely Ben Stokes delivery, the ball just nipping back through the gate.
MS Dhoni’s problems against Stuart Broad continued as he suffered the same fate as most of his team mates, edging a full delivery behind. Next in was Ravindra Jadeja, who had to endure the oddity of being booed by a usually conservative Lords crowd, retribution for his part in a spat with Anderson at Trent Bridge, which has seen the Burnley fast bowler facing a potential two game ban, after he was alleged to have shoved the left-hander.
Jadeja wouldn’t last long, and despite Shane Warne’s calls for Cook to bring Anderson into the attack, it was Ali who trapped him LBW. It had been an excellent session for the home side. Stuart Binny was the victim of a dodgy LBW decision shortly after the tea interval, the delivery from Anderson appearing to go over the top of the stumps on replay. It was a daily reminder to India of the need for DRS, the technology they continually refuse to accommodate.
But despite Binny being the last of the recognised batsmen India continued to push on, with the rate at over four runs an over at one stage. Bhuvneshwar Kumar once again proved his capabilities with the bat, facing 84 balls, aiding Rahane’s nifty quest for a century, the latter scoring at a run a ball once past the fifty mark. Rahane fell in the 87th over of the day, as Anderson held on to a sharp return catch, but Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami held on till the end of the day, signifying the end of a tough period for Cook’s men.
As Sharma blocked the last ball of the day, Broad gave the ball a firm kick. The irritation was there for all to see.