Here come the players. Jimmy Anderson has the ball in his hand; Cheteshwar Pujara is the new batsman.
“Somerset fans have endured the barbs about our Craig on Sky and other media outlets so far, but after his three-for in the Indian innings, his very useful runs and now taking the first wicket of the morning can we start being nice about him?” says Charles Sheldrick. “Certain former England captains continue to say he is just a placeholder until others return from injury, buy to my mind (and, to borrow a song from our Cornish friends):
A good bat and a trusty hand! A merry heart and true! The ECB’s men shall understand What West Country lads can do! And have they fixed the where and when? And shall Trelawny play? Here’s twenty thousand Somerset men Will know the reason why!”
It’s odd that, at a time when England are scratching round for top-order batsmen, they have at least 10 strong contenders for a seam-bowling place: Anderson, Broad, Woakes, Archer, Wood, Stone, Robinson, Overton, Curran, Mahmood plus that fella I’ve forgotten.
LUNCH: India trail by 320 runs
19th over: India 34-1 (Rohit 25) That was the last ball of the over and the morning session. Rahul made 8 from 54 balls, a reflection of the grim struggle that was imposed on India’s openers by some ferocious England bowling. Rohit Sharma played a little more fluently to reach 25 not out from 61, but he had moments of fortune as well. England bowled beautifully, with icy hostility, and fully deserved that wicket.
WICKET! India 34-1 (Rahul c Bairstow b Overton 8)
Craig Overton doesn’t look a particularly pleasant bowler to face, with bat-jarring bounce and sharp seam movement. We can’t say yet whether he is Test class, but we do know that he has earned a recall. His form in county cricket in the last two seasons has been spectacular – 67 first-class wickets at an average of 13. He has a mouth on him, too, and he empties it in Rahul’s direction during another challenging over.
Rahul has worked so hard to survive until lunch – but he can’t manage it! He edges a shortish delivery from Overton to the right of Root at first slip, only for Bairstow to dive across from second slip and take a spectacular one-handed catch. It probably would have carried to Root but Bairstow got there first. That was a blinder, and Bairstow can’t stop beaming as he walks off the field.
18th over: India 34-0 (Rohit 25, Rahul 8) Sam Curran replaces Ollie Robinson. Immediately the pressure on India feels a little lighter, and Rohit gets his third boundary with an elegant flick through midwicket.
“Perhaps Root will give Moeen the typical one-over-from-the-spinner-before-a-break,” says John Starbuck. “But how often does that work, in terms of getting a wicket?”
If you can just bear with me for a couple of years, I’ll provide a comprehensive analysis of the tactic based on 2,432 Test matches played since 1877.
17th over: India 30-0 (Rohit 21, Rahul 8) Rahul shapes to cut, then realises Overton’s delivery is following him and has to adjust desperately to bottom-edge the ball past leg stump.
“Joe Root is an incredible character – the first to take responsibility on any disappointments and the last to accept any praise for success,” says Gavin Gerard. “So fortunate to have this opportunity to watch one of our greatest batsman and bowlers play in the same side.”
One of the nice things about Root’s purple patch is that, for the first time since maybe the summer of 2015, he looks like he’s having fun almost every time he bats. There’s no more infectious smile in English cricket.
16th over: India 28-0 (Rohit 20, Rahul 7) Robinson is bowling so well that Joe Root has given him an eighth over. Rahul taps his first delivery into the off side and pegs it to the other end; somewhere in the crowd, Sir Geoffrey Boycott nods approvingly.
Rohit, hitherto strokeless, gives the scoreboard a jumpstart by leaning back to uppercut ashort ball for six! That’s the first boundary Robinson has conceded in the innings, and it might be the last for a while – I’m sure we’ll see a bowling change at this end.
15th over: India 20-0 (Rohit 14, Rahul 6) Rohit edges Overton short of third slip, where Burns dives to his right to save a boundary. Rohit has 14 from 48 balls, Rahul 6 from 42. They are just over 20 minutes away from a well-earned lunch. Never mind the food, it’s the break they deserve, and need.
14th over: India 18-0 (Rohit 12, Rahul 6) Robinson has another LBW appeal turned down when KL Rahul falls over a big inswinger. It’s pretty hard for Robinson get LBWs because of his length; on that occasion there was an inside-edge anyway. The next ball turns Rahul round and flies of a very thich edge to gully.
Rahul vibrates his bottom lip and widens his eyes in an attempt to sharpen himself up. This is seriously challenging bowling and, though they have had moments of fortune, he and Rohit have done brilliantly to survive. Plenty of teams would be 20 for three right now.
13th over: India 18-0 (Rohit 12, Rahul 6) Overton is getting some extravagant bounce and seam movement, with one ball almost going over Buttler’s head. “Wowee!” says Shane Warne on commentary, “are we at the Waca?”
Another superb delivery leads to a big appeal for caught behind when Rohit is squared up. Alex Wharf, who has had a fine debut, rightly says not out. There was a noise but it was ball on trousers. An extremely good maiden from Overton.
12th over: India 18-0 (Rohit 12, Rahul 6) Robinson is giving Rahul quite a working-over. A big appeal for a bat-pad catch is turned down by Richard Kettleborough, with England deciding not to review. Replays confirm there was no bat or glove involved.
“Looking at that 1966 scorecard, maybe Peter in Brittany was thinking of the second innings?” says Mark Hooper. “Underwood bowled 15 maidens, so could have started with 12 on the trot?”
He could, though it’s unlikely given his overall figures of 43-15-86-0. It would mean his last 31 overs went round the park! The Wisden Almanack report confirms a parsimonious spell, if not quite 12 straight maidens:
Underwood, left arm medium over the wicket, who bowled unchanged from 3.30 p. m. till 6 o’clock had the figures 22-13-17-0 but he failed to take his first wicket in Test cricket, D’Oliveira missing a slip catch from Kanhai, who was then 36.
11th over: India 17-0 (Rohit 11, Rahul 6) Craig Overton replaces Anderson, who bowled a good opening spell of 5-2-8-0 without threatening the devastation of Wednesday morning. Overton hits a full length immediately and beats Rahul with a fine delivery that straightens off the seam. Rahul is having to work pretty hard to survive; Rohit looked more comfortable.
“Hello Rob,” says Geoff Wignall. “A couple of other points of interest for the cricket tragic from that scorecard: Boycott hitting a second innings six and having the highest run rate of the specialist batters; and Sobers opening the bowling in both innings with Hall and Griffiths in the side (though he was the quickest of the three when he felt the need).”
10th over: India 16-0 (Rohit 10, Rahul 6) Robinson ends another majestic over by snapping one the other way to beat Rahul’s outside edge. Just before the LBW review, Nasser Hussain showed that only a few of Ollie Robinson’s deliveries in this match would have hit the stumps, and encouraged him to bowl a bit fuller. Tellingly, the ball that almost got Rahul out would have hit the stumps on length.
It brings to mind a Test, possibly the first innings at Edgbaston in 2001, when Hawkeye showed that none of Glenn McGrath’s 100-odd deliveries would have hit the stumps – and he still got two LBWs.
REVIEW! India 16-0 (Rahul not out 5)
Well I never. KL Rahul was given out LBW to a lovely, fuller delivery from Ollie Robinson, and reviewed reluctantly with only a second or two remaining. It looked out for all money, but replays showed it was just slipping past leg stump.
9th over: India 14-0 (Rohit 9, Rahul 5) Rohit Sharma continues to repel Anderson with soft hands and expert judgement of what to play and what to leave. He has been a bit of a revelation this summer – not so much in his run-scoring (though that has been fine) as his ability to bat time against the moving ball.
8th over: India 14-0 (Rohit 9, Rahul 5) Robinson jags one back sharply to hit Rahul in a sensitive area. That’s why they call it Test cricket. It’s an outstanding over from Robinson, who hits Rahul again with a huge nipbacker and gets another delivery to kick extravagantly outside off stump.
“I think I need professional help in dealing with the ups and downs of
English cricket,” writes Ross Dawson. “Too often I find myself kicking the cat and screaming at the tele’ when our lads have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of a draw. Other times I’m dancing naked around a fire and sacrificing oxen in tribute to our brave boys. Some consistency would be soothing.”
7th over: India 13-0 (Rohit 8, Rahul 5) India may have no interest in attacking Anderson, but some offers can’t be refused. Anderson starts his fourth over with a wide, swinging half-volley that Rohit times through the covers for four. The rest of the over is immaculate – both the attacking bowling and the defensive batting.
“Hello Rob,” says Tim Sanders. “Talking of Jacques Kallis reminds me of the moment when Richie Benaud christened Darren Gough ‘Bobby Dazzler’. The South African cricket machine had, to be fair to him, already made 132 before he was bamboozled at high speed. It’s thirty seconds into the BBC’s Benaud tribute, which is always worth watching.”
6th over: India 8-0 (Rohit 3, Rahul 5) Rahul survives a pretty big shout for LBW from Robinson. It looked outside the line – replays confirm that it was – and might have been high as well. But it was a nice delivery from Robinson, whose length has been a bit fuller in this over. He finishes with a more muted LBW shout against Rahul, who was again outside the line.
5th over: India 6-0 (Rohit 3, Rahul 3) Anderson bowls consecutive, hooping inswingers to KL Rahul. The first hits him on the thigh, the second is tucked off the pads for a single. Rohit survives the rest of the over without alarm. India rightly have no interest in attacking Anderson, they just want to get through his opening spell.
4th over: India 5-0 (Rohit 3, Rahul 2) A quiet over from Ollie Robinson. He hasn’t bowled particularly well with the new ball in this game, though his second spell on Wednesday was excellent.
“One of the problems with comparisons of players across the ages is that conditions are not always the same,” says John Starbuck. “With Deadly Underwood, he was excellent on a sticky dog, but might not fare so well now that pitches are covered more often. Fast bowlers are perhaps more willing to be intimidatory (yes, I know the ‘70s and 80’s West Indians were terrifying all the time) because batters are better protected now. The fast bowlers’ union no longer exists, for instance. There ought to be some caveats built into the stats tables, though I don’t know how you’d do it.”
Thankfully, that’s where Twitter comes in #underwoodout #wgwho? #garfieldwasacatmate
3rd over: India 4-0 (Rohit 3, Rahul 1) Rohit is beaten by a gorgeous outswinger from Anderson. He played the line, with very soft hands, and missed the ball by a distance. Those Fairy Liquid hands save Rohit twice later in the over when he edges short of Overton at third slip. As Dinesh Karthik says on Sky, a stiff-wristed opener wouldn’t have survived that over.
“Double century for Basil Butcher on that scorecard and he didn’t get the MoM?” says Joe Carter. “Very harsh.”
2nd over: India 4-0 (Rohit 3, Rahul 1) This feels like a good time to bowl. It’s chilly, the lights are on and India have 352 units of scoreboard pressure to deal with. Make that 350: KL Rahul gets off the mark with a measured drive off Ollie Robinson, and then Rohit works a single to fine leg.
“I was sad to read the latest news on Chris Cairns,” says Tom van der Gucht. “I think the summer of 2004 was my summer of cricket: the year I fell in love with the sport. I was trapped in a call centre with limited things to do except draw pictures using MS paint and follow the cricket between calls. It was the first time I discovered the OBO and used to race out of work to catch the end of play in local ale pubs with colleagues on C4. Cairns was such an exciting player and watching him go toe-to-toe with Flintoff in the battle of the big all-rounders was a highlight.”
It feels like he didn’t always fulfil his potential but his Test statistics (34 with the bat, 29 with the ball) are extremely good. My strongest memory is that spectacular assault at the Oval in 1999, which set up a famous series victory. It’s desperately sad news.
1st over: India 2-0 (Rohit 2, Rahul 0) An excellent first over from Jimmy Anderson, with every ball curving gently aaway from Rohit Sharma. He is beaten by one delivery, and then gets off the mark with a thick, soft-handed edge towards the third man boundary. The diving Haseeb Hameed does well to save a couple of runs.
Play is about to resume. Joe Root has his team in a huddle by the boundary, and here come the Indian openers.
There’s a bit more drizzle at Headingley, and the umpires are discussing what to do next.
“Re: yesterday’s comments on Underwood, I seem to recall his first 12(?) overs in Test cricket being maidens, vs West Indies,” writes Peter in Brittany. “Has old age nostalgia struck?”
“That’s such a brilliant spiel by Root,” says Pete Salmon (see 10.39am). “Love the thing about Steve Smith and problem solving. During the Ashes over here last time my friends and I played a game during one of his innings, where we weren’t allowed to get up until he hit an attacking shot to a fielder. After several hours we just had to give up as it had become silly. Every single time he hit it off the square it went past the fielders. Hitting it to a fielder seemed his equivalent to getting out, which he didn’t do much either.”
Ha, that’s great. England should ask whether they can have 14 fielders as a handicap. He’s probably say yes, the twisted, problem-solving genius that he is.
Virat Kohli waits by the boundary edge so that Mohammed Shami, who bowled beautifully to take four for 95, can leave the field before he does. Shami has had so many hard-luck stories in England that nobody should begrudge him those wickets. He goes under the radar sometimes but he is a masterful all-weather bowler.
WICKET! England 432 all out (Robinson b Bumrah 0)
With Jimmy Anderson at the crease, Jasprit Bumrah comes into the attack, a gesture of [insert your own adjective here] malevolence from Virat Kohli. On Sky, Mike Atherton wonders whether Joe Root should declare. It’s moot, because Ollie Robinson lasted only three balls. He tried a one-day slap, missed and was bowled. That’s the end of the innings, and England lead by 354 runs.
132nd over: England 431-9 (Robinson 0, Anderson 0) Does anyone have the TMS overses link? Ta!
WICKET! England 431-9 (Overton LBW b Shami 32)
This is only Overton’s fifth Test but he has already played some decent innings. He helped England past their lowest Test score at Auckland in 2018 and almost stopped Australia regaining the Ashes at Old Trafford two years ago.
PS: he’s out. I knew there would be trouble if I started writing about how good his batting had been. He pushed around a good delivery – a terrific delivery in fact – from Shami that nipped back to hit the top of the pad and would have hit middle and leg. Overton reviewed, as England have three left, but he knew.
131st over: England 431-8 (Overton 32, Robinson 0) Ravindra Jadeja starts at the other end to Robinson, who survives a couple of gentle LBW shouts. With Jadeja bowling over the wicket, both deliveries pitched outside leg stump. The general gloom is such that the lights are coming on, which could be good news for Jimmy Anderson.
130th over: England 431-8 (Overton 32, Robinson 0) A confident start from Overton, who hits the last two balls of Shami’s over for four. The first was a hearty back-foot slap through the covers, the second a crisp flick thorugh midwicket.
The players are out in the middle, and Mohammed Shami is going to bowl to Craig Overton.
There has been a bit of drizzle at Headingley. Looks like we’re going to start on time though.
“On the Root thing, touching to see his comments yesterday about advice from Ted Dexter (named after the small cows) – keep sideways on, don’t get turned,” writes Bill Hargreaves. “I think TD might have been the first to coin the phrase ‘bat imagining you’re standing in an upright bathtub’ – i.e. as little lateral movement as possible. Looking forward to yet another superlative day.”
“India need not be too discouraged by the events of yesterday,” says Shankar Mony. “Root was absolutely brilliant and has been all year. The batsmen need to show up and bat time, even if the draw is out of play, they should treat it as an extended net and put miles into Jimmy’s legs. Oh, and also the other bowlers’ legs.”
It’s a really important third innings, for all sorts of reasons. I know Maurice Mentum has been discredited by the turnaround from Lord’s to Headingley, but I still think it’s important, particularly on an individual level. India can score points before next week’s game at the Oval, especially if some of their struggling middle order get big runs.
There was a really good interview with Joe Root on Sky a moment ago, where he discussed his recent form and the changes he made during lockdown.
“[On his dismissals, LBW and bowled, by Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins] If you watch both of them, I do my initial trigger movement and then there’s an extra movement. If you watch how I move now there’s more flow in the way I go backwards and forwards – I’m moving straight back [mimes rocking backwards and forwards] and I’m really working hard at keeping my front shoulder as side on to the bowler as possible.
“Any extra movement now is to push me into position, whereas before I felt I was getting stuck after the extra movement against Hazlewood and Cummins. More than anything it’s about getting in better positions – trying to go forward and back straight, and staying as side on as possible.
“[On improving his conversaion rate from 50 to 100] A lot of came down to not reading the game well enough, and feeling like I was playing extremely well – sometimes better than I am right now – but not recognising certain passages of play. Almost being naive… I wasn’t going up and down the gears; I was just happy to keep trying to score quicker and quicker and quicker, not reading what the opposition were trying to do. More than anything I wanted to have more clarity and a better understanding of how teams were trying to bowl to me.
“Steve Smith’s the perfect example. He’s the best at it in the world. His way of batting is that he’s problem-solving all the time, trying to find a way of getting the ball where the fielders aren’t and taking as much risk out of the game as possible. Learning from your peers is really important and something I’ve tried to do. Jack told me that the first hundred is for the taxman, so you only make your money after that.”
Who’s Jack? Have I forgotten someone really obvious?
Put the cigars away. Take those bloody beers out of Jimmy’s ice bath. England have some hard yakka ahead before they can celebrate victory in the third Test. India will – spoiler alert! – play a whole lot better in their second innings, on a pitch that has become pretty good for batting. While it’s not beyond the realms that the match will end today, the likelier scenario is that India will make England work very hard for the ten wickets they need.
Before the real business begins, England’s lower order have the chance to increase India’s collective agita. They will resume on 423 for eight, a lead of 345, after another century of charming brilliance from Joe Root. He certainly deserves a good celebration.