Moeen Ali struck twice in the last session of play on Day 4 at Lord’s to scuttle an Indian fightback led by the under-fire duo of Cheteshwar Pujara (45) and Ajinkya Rahane (61). After Mark Wood produced a snorter to end Pujara’s resistance, Moeen sent back Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja (3) in quick succession to lift England.
When bad light stopped play at Lord’s, India’s hopes of saving the Test were hanging by a thread. Rishabh Pant (14 not out) and Ishant Sharma (4 not out) headed back to the pavilion with the score reading 181 for 6 – a lead of 154.
India will need to add at least another 100 runs and eat up time on the final day at Lord’s to improve their hopes of survival. The situation for the visitors is in stark contrast to Day 1, when they walked back having scored a healthy 276 for 3, only to squander the advantage.
If there was a silver lining for India at Lord’s on Sunday, it was the return to runs for the struggling duo of Pujara and Rahane. They batted with resolve to ensure India did not lose any wicket in the second session. The gritty batters survived a barrage of short-pitched stuff from the pumped-up Wood.
India’s nemesis in the past, off-spinner Moeen got some balls to turn sharply in the second innings. While Pujara negotiated the turn by running down the track, Rahane was in a spot of bother as he played a missed a few.
Importantly for India, he survived. India added only 49 runs in the second session of play at Lord’s. But the smile of relief on Pujara and Rahane’s faces clearly indicated that survival was the mantra for them.
Pujara took a painstaking 35 balls to get off the mark. More significantly, he was extra cautious in leaving balls outside the off stump. He played a typically defiant knock and brought up the hundred stand with Rahane by pulling Wood for four with authority.
The fiery pacer, though, had his revenge very next ball as he got one to kick off a length. Pujara could do nothing but deflect it gently to second slip. The India No. 3 faced 206 balls during his stay at the crease.
Rahane had a much-needed stroke of luck in the last session. On 31, he cut Moeen uppishly towards Jonny Bairstow, who dived to his right but could not cling on to the chance.
The Indian vice-captain went on to register a precious fifty by steering Sam Curran between slips and point. Rahane too couldn’t carry on, though. After playing and missing numerous times against Moeen, he finally edged the spinner to end his 146-ball vigil.
Moeen then produced a moment of magic at Lord’s to send Jadeja packing. He got one to pitch around middle, turned it enough to beat the left-hander’s defence and hit the top of off stump.
India’s ‘one bad session’ at Lord’s
India desperately needed a solid session after digging themselves into a hole with some poor batting in the first couple of hours. KL Rahul (5) had a rare failure as he finally flirted at one outside the off stump from Wood.
Rohit Sharma (21) looked in sublime form briefly. He imperiously pulled a short one from Wood over the fence. However, the bowler had the last laugh as the opener attempted another horizontal bat shot and only managed to toe-end it to deep square leg. England had a plan in place and it worked to the ‘T’ as Rohit fell into the trap rather easily.
Indian captain Virat Kohli spoke a lot but delivered little. He was involved in a verbal match with James Anderson. Calling out the bowler for running in the middle of the pitch, Kohli was heard telling the England legend – “This isn’t your backyard.”
Kohli perhaps forgot that it wasn’t his either, aimlessly hanging his bat at another ball outside off stump, this time from Sam Curran. It was backyard cricket stuff indeed from the Indian captain! In the earlier two innings of the series, he poked at James Anderson and Ollie Robinson, and the results were no different.
India have lost numerous Tests in the past due to ‘one bad session’. They would hope Lord’s doesn’t get added to the list.
Minor ‘spike on ball’ controversy at Lord’s
There was a minor controversy in the Lord’s Test on Sunday. In the 35th over of India’s second innings, footage emerged of a fielder stepping on the ball with the spikes on. While former India cricketers Aakash Chopra and Virender Sehwag indirectly questioned the fielder’s intention, England pacer Stuart Broad called it an accident while responding to a fan on Twitter.
Significantly, the umpires did not change the ball, and the Test at Lord’s carried on without any interruption.