NOTTINGHAM: The twilight chill by the banks of the pristine river Trent hasn’t felt this cozy to an Indian fan for sometime now. And the tri-colour, flying happily 500 metres away on the pavilion of the Trent Bridge, made you feel life in Test cricket is not all dark and gloomy after all.
The bleak journey that started in Birmingham on August 1 suddenly discovered a sunny crossroad on a cloudy Sunday afternoon as India ran away to a commanding position by stumps on Day 2 of the third Test. As the sky cleared up, the Indian batsmen added 124/2 to a big first-innings lead of 168 that the bowlers had presented them with after an inspired second session display. The lead is already 292, and for the stats-minded, the highest successful run chase at this 119-year-old Test venue is 284/6.
If the weather holds and the batsman do half as well as they did in the first innings, India should be pushing for victory, which looked extremely unlikely a couple of days earlier, from Monday afternoon.
And if they are able to complete the job of making the series 2-1 here, Hardik Pandya (5-28) should deserve half the credit. Pandya was the unlikeliest customer to turn a hero with the ball, but it was his dream spell of swing bowling after coming to bowl in the 25th over that triggered the English collapse. The hosts, who were 46-0 at lunch and 86-3 when Pandya came in to bowl, lost 10 wickets in a session, unable to cope with the outswing of the Baroda allrounder.
It’s true that Pandya did most of the damage, but there was some serious support from the other bowlers. After Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami were just a bit short in the 45 minutes they got to bowl at England openers after India got bowled out for 329 in the first innings, the Indian pacers made the necessary correction in length in the second session. They were led by Ishant Sharma (2-32) in a spell of inspirational pace bowling in the first hour after lunch. Coming round the wicket, he got Alastair Cook (29) nicking twice in three balls. While the first one was dropped at second slip, the second chance was snapped up by keeper Rishabh Pant.
Cook’s catch was the first of the five catches that the 20-year-old took on the day, looking extremely assured behind the stumps.