England 357 for 6 (Woakes 120*, Bairstow 93, Shami 3-74) lead India 107 by 250 runs
The third day nearly produced 90 overs, and India nearly came back into the game, but the honours belonged, literally, to Chris Woakes. With his unbeaten 120, Woakes became the tenth player to make both the batting and bowling honours boards at Lord’s, and in combination with a mature Jonny Bairstow, who missed out on a century of his own by seven runs, batted India out of the match, lifting England to a lead of 250 by stumps. England still have four wickets in hand, and despite all the overs lost to rain in this Test are well placed to push for a 2-0 series lead.
Woakes joined Bairstow when England were 131 for 5 and India’s seamers were beginning to adapt and pick up wickets in batting conditions that were unimaginable under Friday’s dark clouds. By the time India separated them, they had put on 189 for the sixth wicket and England were over 200 runs in the lead.
Both Bairstow and Woakes had reasons to be watchful, but their partnership run rate of 4.34 betrayed that. There were several inside-edges and swish-and-miss sequences during the early parts of their alliance, and they survived an lbw review each, but India’s seamers couldn’t sustain the pressure.
Bairstow’s tall stance played a part in both his dismissals at Edgbaston, where he was dismissed by balls going both ways from a similar line outside off. There, he wasn’t getting close to the ball, but on Saturday, he seemed to have learned his lesson. Bairstow was routinely to the pitch of the ball outside off, and offered a full face almost every time he drove. His seven boundaries through the covers were diverse – on the half-volley, through the line, against the turn – and every one of his three boundaries down the ground were struck with authority and control. Importantly, Bairstow took the attack to both R Ashwin – whose first over was the innings’ 39th – and Kuldeep Yadav, forcing Virat Kohli to keep going back to his tired and under-staffed pace attack.
This allowed Woakes plenty of freedom at the other end, and when he did get over his penchant for finding boundaries off edges, he began playing some regal strokes of his own. Ishant Sharma first tested Woakes with the bouncer, a plan Australia had routinely used against him in the Ashes, but after a few testing deliveries, Woakes signalled the start of his dominance by swatting him to the square-leg boundary. In fact, Woakes almost made a staple of the back-foot shots, scoring freely both in front of and behind square on the leg side, while punishing the easy, short and wide offerings by the end of the last session. Through 18 fours and a control percentage of 86, Woakes outscored Bairstow in reaching his century and was unbeaten at the end of the day.
India’s bowlers struggled with their length all day, even with the new ball. Through hitting their natural lengths, both Ishant and Shami fed Alastair Cook’s preference to stay deep in the crease and play mostly off the back foot. There was swing every time they erred full, but the early indications were that they had no control when swinging the ball away from the left-handers. On a distinctly sunny day, they didn’t have help from the overhead conditions, and the seemingly calm start as opposed to India’s blitzkrieg opening 45 minutes on Friday looked ominous for the visitors.
But if bowling full wouldn’t do it, bowling straight did. Unable to be menacing or consistent with their swing, India’s seamers looked at doing what they’re used to at home – bowl at the stumps. From that came the lbw of Keaton Jennings, who fell over trying to flick Shami’s full ball, and made the first of England’s two ordinary batting reviews. Rapped right in front of middle with a stride that had him marginally outside the crease, he stood no chance.
Cook could do far less as a reaction, both during and after his dismissal to an Ishant corker that jagged away just enough from the stumps to kiss his outside edge. With England two down in the ninth over, just as India had been, Virat Kohli and his team-mates were beginning to chirp.
Debutant Ollie Pope and captain Joe Root put a brief stopper with a 45-run third-wicket stand. Pope made his first runs in Tests through a leg-side boundary, and looked generally organised as he moved at a 70-plus strike rate. But he was the second of four batsmen out leg-before, and the last of them to get to use a review. Hit just above his back knee, Pope stood no chance. When Root fell at the stroke of lunch three overs later, England were only 18 behind, but not inspiring too much confidence.
The shots their top order had played were no different to the ambitious ones India played yesterday, forcing the thought that perhaps these were just terrible batting conditions for anyone. Kohli’s celebratory screams from the slip cordon made it appear as if India sensed as much. But like Kohli, who sporadically went off the field with a suspected back issue, his bowlers were largely absent after lunch.
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