India 125 for 4 (Rahul 57*, Sharma 36, Anderson 2-15) trail England 183 (Root 64, Bumrah 4-46, Shami 3-28) by 58 runs
A man not supposed to be looked at as an opener anymore stepped in at the last moment to replace a concussed good friend of his, scored an unbeaten fifty in trying conditions, but wasn’t even the story of the day on which only 33.4 overs were possible. Three full series since getting Virat Kohli out four times for 19 runs in 2014, James Anderson got India’s captain out first ball to rouse England back into the contest after a 97-run opening stand between the returning KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma.
Oh, and the ball to get Kohli was a really good one, but it was not even the best ball to get a wicket on the day. In what is now becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy from Cheteshwar Pujara, a bowler will do well to top the delivery Anderson bowled just one ball before getting Kohli out. Perhaps it was fitting that there wasn’t more cricket: you need to ration things so good.
India ended the day 58 behind England’s first-innings score of 183, an outcome they would have settled for if offered at the start of the day, but not from the possible domination they were eyeing at the end of the first session.
In 2018-19, Rahul’s good friend from Karnataka, Mayank Agarwal, replaced him at the top of the order. They then opened together for three Tests before Rahul was dropped and then later looked at as a back-up middle-order option only. Two days before this Test, though, Agarwal suffered a concussion in the nets and here Rahul was, trying to revive his career and give India some sort of launch pad. With him was the naturalised opener, Rohit, who has looked as good as any opener going around in the most challenging era for Test openers.
England resumed the day with Anderson and Ollie Robinson, possibly to spread their two experienced fast bowlers in a thin four-man attack whose fourth bowler was Sam Curran. Anderson and Robsinson gave it their best in a challenging first hour during which both the openers had to remain vigilant. A mistake occurred once every four balls, but the batters kept putting it behind them and resisted attempting a wishful stroke.
If, in between, there was a rare loose ball, Sharma especially took advantage, playing a lovely off-drive and a flick-pull for the only two boundaries in the first 11 overs, which brought just 12 runs. Anderson was imperious with his outswing, Robinson awkward with seam and bounce. However, when Anderson flipped the shiny side to bowl the inswinger, it didn’t quite come out right. Robinson failed to get full enough to get an lbw verdict.
Sharma and Rahul left expertly, played late, defended under their eyes, and attacked only when the ball was absolutely there to be attacked. This was batting of great discipline and expertise.
Full report to follow…
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.