Unlike the previous two Test matches, the Indian top order showed intent and better defensive technique in overcast conditions.
A muggy, overcast Nottingham, a greenish 22-yard turf and an Indian batting known to buckle under such conditions sounds daunting but with a prospect of a series defeat looming large, the Indian batsmen battled hard to score 182 at the loss of three wickets till the last reports came in on the first day of the third Test match at Trent Bridge on Saturday.
Defying expectations, the Indian players managed to keep their neck above the water, riding on the century partnership between skipper Virat Kohli (51)and team’s deputy Ajinkya Rahane (50). Rahane clearly showed why he is such an important part of the pack especially when it comes to away matches, playing shots all around the ground’s perimeter fence. Kohli, like always, was right on the money from the word go as he scored his 18th Test fifty. Aggressive approach, running between the wickets and occasional boundaries was the highlight of their partnership.
The run rate at which the batsmen scored was the best in the series on a lifeless pitch that was slightly holding ball but the decision to put India into bat first was probably because of slight sprinkling of rain and overcast conditions that might have tempted Root to make that decision.
And he was proved right to some extent as Chris Woakes was again the focal point before lunch after he made early inroads, having Dhawan caught at slip for 35, trapping Rahul lbw for 23 and taking crucial wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara whereas the rest of the bowlers toiled hard for wickets. India were reduced to 82-3 by lunch.
Ben Stokes, who returned to cricket after being found not guilty of affray, received a mixed reception from the crowd after he was handed the bowl for the first time. Like his senior bowlers—James Anderson and Stuart Broad- he couldn’t extract much from the pitch and kept leaking runs.
At the start of the innings, the Indians got through the new ball as they looked to play late, negating the movement off the pitch even as they stitched up their best opening partnership of the series thus far (60). The opening stand was absolutely necessary as life was made easier for the rest of the batsmen waiting in the hut.
A watchful Shikhar Dhawan, brought back into the mix after the team management decided to drop Murali Vijay owing to his dismal performance in previous two Tests, made a solid start adding 35 runs to the scoreboard. His partner K.L. Rahul played a useful knock of 23.
Probably the first time in Test series, the batsmen looked disciplined, pouncing on the bad deliveries whenever possible and a conscious technique change was visible throughout. But the only hair in the soup was Cheteshwar Pujara (14) who played a hook shot on the stroke of lunch which went straight into the hands of Adil Rashid on the boundary. Pujara, who might be staring down the barrel for his position in the team, looked to score quick runs which is highly unlike of his way of playing and this might have cost him his wicket.
Next in will be Test debutant 20-year-old wicket-keeper batsman Risabh Pant, who today replaced Dinesh Karthik.