Rahul, Jadeja drive India's dominance before rain arrives

KL Rahul and Ravindra Jadeja put on a vital stand for India
August 06, 2021

Ravindra Jadeja pulled out his sword celebration, Jasprit Bumrah hit a six and also his top score in Tests, Mohammed Shami displayed text-book defensive pushes, and Mohammed Siraj had some fun too as India's much-maligned lower order took them into a position of strength, a first-innings lead of 95 runs, in the Trent Bridge Test. Not before KL Rahul added 27 to his already fine overnight 57.

Rain, though, frustrated them as only 49.2 overs of cricket was possible on the third day, England playing out the 11.1 bowled to them without the loss of a wicket. India now have a maximum of 196 overs to force a result in.

Not long ago, in the World Test Championship final in the same country but against a different opponent, India lost their seventh wicket on 205, the same score as here, but lost the remaining three for 12 runs. Then the last four added 28 in the second innings. The difference in two lower orders - home ones generally tend to outscore their opponents - was believed to be the difference between the two sides leading into the series.

Then Ben Stokes pulled out. Suddenly England didn't have the depth either in their batting or bowling. India ran through their lower order, and batted against an attack whose fourth and final bowler was Sam Curran. And Stuart Broad was having a second consecutive off day. A combination of better resolve from the batters, less incisive change-up bowlers, and some luck - three dropped catches and five missed run-outs in all - meant India enjoyed being at the other end of three frustrating lower-order stands, worth 73 in all.

That in mind, James Anderson and Ollie Robinson did well - splitting nine wickets between them, including a maiden five-for for Robinson - to keep the lead down to two figures.

The day began precariously amid rain breaks. India were 58 behind with Rahul and Rishabh Pant in the middle. Pant was going to play his shots. And so he did. A few came off before he chipped one to short cover to de dismissed for 25 off 20. Along the way he became India's highest run-getter in Tests this year.

Rahul nearly ran Jadeja out when he was four, but Dan Lawrence felt he had less time than he actually did. Instead of lobbing the ball to the wicketkeeper, he went for the direct hit and missed. Jadeja then went on to show why he has been among the best Test allrounders in the world since 2018 and why he provides India the flexibility to play five bowlers.

Rahul and Jadeja came together with India still 38 behind, and given the tail behind them they needed a big stand to retain the advantage in the Test. They added 60 runs and also saw off the most testing spell of the day when Anderson and Robinson bowled together. Joe Root dropped Rahul off Anderson during this period, but two boundaries later, Anderson produced a thinner edge to have him caught by the keeper. By then, India were in the lead, and Rahul had once again adapted to a new role - remember he was now being looked at as a middle-order batter - to make himself a place in the side.

Shardul Thakur fell for a duck, and India were just 22 ahead with three proverbial Nos 11 to follow. Things were different here, though. The bowling didn't have that sting for starters. Shami chose to play sensibly, and it came off too. In a 25-ball partnership, Jadeja manipulated the strike to face 22 and scored 24 off them.

Jadeja fell trying to hit Robinson over the field that had come up for the last ball of the over, but England still couldn't get the swift end they were after. Anderson himself proceeded to drop Shami. Bumrah batted with steely resolve. Shanks cleared the infield, and the better ones came right off the middle. He even hit Curran for a stunningly flat pulled six.

By the time Robinson took his fifth, and India's last, wicket, England had been kept in the field for 84.5 overs. Curran bowled only 15 of those, and Broad went at 3.5 an over. India were going to operate with a more evenly spread-out attack.

However, in the few overs that were possible before rain ended the day's play prematurely, the pitch looked a little settled. It was also evident from how India operated with just two slips and a gully. India still drew 11 mistakes in that period, which means it was not a flatbed. Eyes were also on the overheads: clouds were expected to bring assistance for India, but rain could deny them the time needed to inflict damage.

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