A resistant Joe Root and an aggressive Stuart Broad saved England’s blushes on day three of the first Test against India, as the pair helped their side recover from 202-7 and avoid the follow-on at Trent Bridge.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar took career-best figures of 4-61 as India ripped through their hosts in the afternoon session, after failing to take a single wicket before lunch.
Sam Robson and Gary Ballance helped England overcome the loss of captain, Alastair Cook, late last night, but their respective dismissals proved a catalyst for a flood of English wickets to fall.
But after losing six wickets for 68 runs, Broad (47) scored at more than a run-a-ball to bail out the side, whilst Root (78*) added reliability with a resistant innings at the other end as England closed on 352-9 – still 105 runs behind India.
There was definitely cause for optimism in the morning as Robson and Ballance set about chipping away at India’s first innings total of 457.
The two rookie Test batsmen started the day strongly. Despite the cloudy conditions, the touring bowlers struggled to find much swing, and as such, the batsmen were able to pick off boundaries and build towards their respective half-centuries.
It may not have been the most captivating, but Robson and Ballance both made it to 59 not out at lunch in what was arguably England’s best session of the match.
Aside from the Middlesex opener being dropped on 43, there was little cause for concern. But he wouldn’t add anymore to his score at the interval.
In the afternoon session, the dark sky came crashing down on the home side, as they looked in danger of having to follow-on.
Robson was caught LBW by Ishant Sharma for 59, without the use of DRS in this series, he had to walk as the umpire raised his finger. For the time being, England looked like they could ride the Indian storm.
Ian Bell (25) came in and looked assured during his 50-minute stay at the crease.
At the other end, Ballance soon lost his wicket in identical circumstances to Robson, trapped by Sharma for 71, leaving the hosts 154-3.
Sharma soon had his third wickets of the session as Bell got caught in two minds and unwillingly got an edge on the ball that carried through to MS Dhoni’s gloves behind the stumps.
The situation was about to become more dire when Moeen Ali (14) failed to recreate the resistance that he exhibited on the final day of the second Test against Sri Lanka.
The part-time spinner misjudged a short ball from Mohammed Shami and consequently gloved the ball to a grateful Shikhar Dhawan at slip, who took a good catch to his right.
Root – who was ushered to the crease with the dismissal of Ballance – now had his work cut out to try and lead England past the follow-on target, with the score at 197-5.
He didn’t receive much help from Matt Prior (5) though. Kumar got his first wicket of the match as England’s wicketkeeper gave his opposite number – who was standing at the stumps – a fine edge to cling onto.
The Kumar and Dhoni combination soon saw about the downfall of Ben Stokes. Making his return to the Test arena, the all-rounder was disappointingly dismissed for a second-ball duck.
England were now 202-7 – still another 255 runs shy of India’s first innings score. The final wicket partnership of 111 between Kumar and Shami was starting to look even more costly.
At tea, the score was 205-7, following a collapse of 68-6 during the afternoon session.
After the break, Broad returned to the Trent Bridge middle in a counter-attacking mood, punishing the Indian seamers and sending them to all parts of the ground. Nine boundaries punctuated a 42-ball 47 as the left-hander removed the possibility of following-on.
As he went after the bowlers, Root – playing a mature knock – offered a calming presence at the other end, gradually adding to his individual score, and maintaining his wicket.
It was the new ball that eventually accounted for Broad, but not before England moved within 200 of their opponents. Kumar got the red cherry to swing back in and trap the Nottinghamshire player LBW.
Liam Plunkett (5) failed to really trouble the scorers, and was bowled by Kumar – who in the process recorded his Test-best bowling figures.
With Cook’s side battered and bruised, they had to take solace in the smallest of achievements, and one of those occurred as Root passed his half-century. But with only James Anderson for company, how much could England limit their first innings deficit?
Perhaps taking inspiration from the Indian tailenders, runs started streaming from both Root and Anderson. An unbroken stand of 54 developed as the home crowd finally had something to cheer about.
Anderson showed batsmen up the order how to play with an exquisite reverse sweep, as he left the crease on 23 not out at stumps.
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