Root ton, Bumrah five-wicket haul set up intriguing final day

August 07, 2021

India 278 and 52 for 1 (Rahul 26, Rohit 12*) need another 157 runs to beat England 183 and 303 (Root 109, Curran 32, Bumrah 5-64, Thakur 2-37)

Joe Root and Jasprit Bumrah combined on the fourth day to set up a grandstand finish for the Trent Bridge Test, the series opener. Having fallen behind by 95 in the first innings, England roared back on the back of a colossal 21st century from Root, but just when they were slipping out of India's grasp, Bumrah put in an immense five-for to rise above a tiring bowling unit to keep the target down to 209. India knocked 52 of those off in the awkward 65 minutes they got at the end of the day for the loss of just one wicket.

England began the day 70 behind with all their wickets in hand, but it was believed they needed rain or Root to rescue their fledgling batting unit. The promised rain never arrived, but in the best batting conditions of the Test, Root batted with assured positivity to make sure England never went into a shell and put the pressure of runs on India. However, Dom Sibley, Dan Lawrence and Jos Buttler gifted their wickets away to keep India in the contest by the time the new ball arrived. Bumrah blew them away with it.

In the morning, though, it was special bowling that brought Root to the crease. Mohammed Siraj continued his threat to left-hand batters, pitching in the blind spot on middle and leg and then getting away movement to take the edge from Rory Burns. Bumrah then produced a beauty to Zak Crawley, pitching on a length, close to off, holding its line, taking the edge. India had taken two wickets in the first half hour, and England were still 49 behind.

Root came out intent on getting into the lead as early as possible. The third ball he faced was full enough for him to drive through the covers. In the first 18 balls Root had hit four fours, one of them off the edge. By that time Bumrah was done with his first spell of the day. Mohammed Shami was not quite at his best, providing overpitched balls every now and then. Shardul Thakur looked short of a gallop, and Root decided to cash in.

There was a period of play when Root tried two late-cuts, one slog-sweep, one hook and one ramp for not a single run. Once he was out of this period, Root looked like he was batting on a flat deck and not in a Test where no one had scored a century. Conditions had eased out no doubt - England's control percentage was up to 80 from 75 in the last two innings of the match - but Root was playing at a level above his team-mates.

Post lunch, the clouds rolled in, and Dom Sibley - 28 off 132 till then - decided to have a drive at a short-of-a-length ball from Bumrah, which nipped back in to take the inside edge for Rishabh Pant to catch. The two still added 89, but effectively at 40 for 3, England had opened the window again.

Jonny Bairstow took over the scoring duties from Root. He was helped out by boundary balls provided early. In fact every new batter received gifts from India on the day. Root now just went into cruise mode with singles available everywhere with Bairstow presenting India with a big threat. Bumrah's first spell in the afternoon was done. The new ball was far away. India were not going to Shami or Thakur. The stage was set for England to dominate.

Bairstow had hit four boundaries in 32 balls, but when he went for the fifth, he did nail the flat pull but found the man in the deep. It was Ravindra Jadeja, and he had been there for a while. While this - a bouncer that didn't get high - was not the exact plan, there was a rough plan for Bairstow.

Lawrence and Buttler would have left Root frustrated. Runs were still coming easy. Both got gentle sighters early. Between them they hit seven boundaries in 54 balls. India have not been that generous in years. Lawrence, though, planted his big front foot across with the ball clearly reversing to give the struggling Thakur a second wind. Buttler then proceeded to leave alone without even covering his stumps, getting out for the sixth time in Test cricket when not offering a stroke. And that was minutes after he had survived a close lbw call doing the same to the reversing ball.

England were still only 142 ahead with six wickets gone. India were still struggling for an intense spell. The new ball was 10 overs away. Root and Sam Curran bedded in in those 10 overs. Root brought up his hundred, England reached 177 ahead. India took the new ball immediately. This was a huge moment. India still desperately needed to make the new ball count or England could run away with the Test.

Arrive Bumrah. In the first over with the new ball, he produced the beauty he often does. On a length, holding its line just outside off, bouncing extra, taking Root's edge. In the fifth over with the new ball, he went round the wicket to draw awkward bounce and inward movement to handcuff Curran and have him caught at mid-on. He bowled Stuart Broad with the next ball.

The pesky tail was not going to bother India today. Shami had the fly slip perfectly placed for the edge off the Ollie Robinson slog to be pouched. India have, in recent times, been a well-spread bowling unit, but on this day one man - a little like Root - and some luck carried them. They have had desperately unlucky days, too, so this was not out of order.

Against a charged-up bowling unit, with the loud capacity crowd in their ears, India had a torturous little period leading up to the stumps. With rain approaching, the openers didn't even know how long they were in for. What they knew was the whereabouts of their off stumps.

KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma were excellent again, making the bowlers desperate with their leaves and defence. Rahul got most of the error balls earned, and cashed in. He made Broad produce the best ball he could bowl, a bit like Bumrah's two peaches earlier to get Crawley and Root, to get out, with 15 minutes to go. England went on an all-out attack in the last 15 minutes, but couldn't get the wicket. In the process, they opened up scoring opportunities, which a struggling Pujara accepted.

In the last over of the day, Rohit repeated the pull shot against Robinson after having been caught in the last over before lunch in the first innings, but executed it perfectly to keep it down.

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