Root key as second day ends in balance after Anderson five-for

August 13, 2021

England 119 for 3 (Burns 49, Root 48*, Siraj 2-34) trail India 364 (Rahul 129, Anderson 5-62) by 246 runs

It was more ebb and flow and less one-sided on day two as England counter-punched throughout to significantly limit India's chances of running away with an early advantage in the second Test. Spearheading the bowling effort once again was James Anderson, who became the oldest man in 70 years to take a Test five-for; he was aided much better on the day by the rest of the line-up, and together they made sure that India added only 88 to their overnight score of 276 for 3.

By stumps, England were 246 behind with Joe Root looking solid, after he had put up an encouraging stand with Rory Burns that came just in time as a potent spell from Mohammed Siraj threatened to put India on top once again.

The day couldn't have begun any better for England. Overnight centurion KL Rahul miscued a drive straight to extra cover off Ollie Robinson, second ball of the day, and Anderson had Ajinkya Rahane caught behind off the first ball next over to put an end to a 23-ball effort for India's vice-captain that yielded a single run. At 282 for 5, India were suddenly in danger of a rapid end to their innings as England made use of the overcast conditions far better than they had on the first day.

The last recognised pair - Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja - did come good at that point, even if briefly in a 49-run stand. Pant played with typical panache, stepping out to slash over the bowlers, to pummel through the covers, and on one instance even stepping out and leaving a ball outside off. He was dismissed by Mark Wood, who would eventually go on to get Jadeja as well. India's last four wickets added 33, a laboured effort that took 16.1 overs of batting around an atypically subdued Jadeja, who was the last man out. That total of 364 signalled a move towards some parity in the game for England.

Burns and Dom Sibley looked resolute as they took England to tea, but India would punch back immediately after. They did that via Siraj, and with the use of a strategy they had developed earlier in the year on their Australia tour: the leg trap, a move that involved consistently slanting the ball into batters with packed leg-side fields that eventually proved to be a viable attacking as well as defensive strategy.

Siraj was the man entrusted to pull it off, attacking Sibley's middle and leg stumps until he induced a leg-side strangle that has become endemic for England's opener in a short career; he had chipped to midwicket at Trent Bridge, and he did it again on Friday after enduring 44 balls for 11. Next ball, India had three catchers in various orientations around midwicket, and that was enough to push the returning Haseeb Hameed to play down a middle stump line to a full delivery that rattled the base of off.

It became crucial at this juncture for England that Root would get through Siraj's spell unscathed, and the bowler didn't make it easy. He consistently challenged Root's inside edge with a sustained attack at the stumps. On two occasions he came close to trapping him lbw; on both, Virat Kohli made reluctant reviews that showed the ball was sliding down leg side and India burned two reviews quickly. With the second one, he was visibly distressed with wicketkeeper Pant, seemingly for being too late in telling him that the review wasn't on.

Funnily enough, it was a Siraj over that did eventually release the pressure off England. The 27th over went for three fours, all of them from Burns, who drove neatly past mid-off and followed it up with consecutive pulls to the midwicket boundary to jump from 19 off 78 to 31 off 84. It also managed to take Siraj out of the attack, and began a series of fours, including two from Root at the start of Ishant Sharma's next over. From 42 for 2 at the end of 26 overs, England swiftly jumped to 73 for 2 at the end of the 30th.

The pattern from there was much like that of India's in the last session of day one, with the sun peeking through the clouds and scoring getting easier. Soon enough, Kohli was forced to turn to Jadeja to tighten up one end in a bid to get to stumps without too much damage.

India did pull one back at the end, though: Mohammed Shami going around the wicket for a third wicket that involved the ball coming in at the stumps. Completely against the run of play, Burns was trapped on the back foot, the ball keeping a touch low as he looked to swish it into the leg side. He made it clear he wasn't pleased with that decision and it ended up costing England a review. But on the balance, at least from the point of view that India didn't make any massive strides after day one, England will have been the happier team at stumps.

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