The swing bowler keeps the England batsmen on a leash as the second day marginally swings India’s way
Bhuvneshwar Kumar prefers being low-profile. His press conferences can be agonising because of his brief sentences that stem from an innate modesty.
At the other end stands Gary Ballance. The England batsman was photographed bare-chested thanks to a few beers coursing through his veins at a pub near Trent Bridge, just after the first Test.
Together, these contrasting personalities dictated the ebb and flow of the second Test’s second day that marginally swung India’s way towards draw of stumps. M.S. Dhoni’s men struck through Bhuvneshwar while England mounted its resistance upon Ballance’s second Test ton (110, 203b, 15×4).
The southpaw raced to the mark, with a flurry of fours — five off nine deliveries — with the last three coming off a Stuart Binny over. It was in the fitness of things that Bhuvneshwar scalped Ballance with Dhoni effecting a fine diving catch.
At close, England had scored 219 for six in pursuit of the visitors’ first innings score of 295. The host’s revival was built on Ballance and the 98-run fifth-wicket partnership (196b) that he scripted with Moeen Ali until the latter became Murali Vijay’s first Test victim.
Just like previous unheralded bowlers — Chetan Sharma in 1986 and R.P. Singh in 2007 — Bhuvneshwar (four for 46) surprised England. He is not quick but makes up with his nagging off-stump line, embellished by an adequate length, that helps the ball express its swing.
Bhuvneshwar’s two spells — a long first one (10-4-17-2) and a second split across lunch (7-3-17-1) — along with the other Indian bowlers’ effort kept England under a leash. The run-rate hovered around 2.45 while Ballance moved towards his second ton at Lord’s in a stint that showed his ‘batting-long’ philosophy.
Cook pouches his 100th
Thursday night had turned damp with rain but Friday dawned under sunshine. Immediately, England prised out India’s last-wicket after just 10 deliveries. Mohammed Shami edged Ben Stokes and Alastair Cook pouched his 100th catch in Tests.
Struggling for runs, the England skipper would not have been blamed if he had presumed the statistical nugget to be a good omen. It didn’t transpire that way when England commenced its innings. Despite two fours clipped off his legs, Cook shakily thrust his bat and the edge off Bhuvneshwar, sailed towards Dhoni.
The catch offered relief to the Indian skipper, who in Shami’s previous over, saw Ajinkya Rahane spill Sam Robson’s catch at second slip. On eight then, Robson failed to capitalise and succumbed to Bhuvneshwar. Wavering at 31 for two, England needed Ballance to drop anchor. He and Ian Bell nudged the host to 51 for two at lunch.
After the break, India kept it tight. Ishant Sharma wheeled away and Bhuvneshwar stayed steady while England found relief in Ballance. The century-maker punished the rare loose delivery with the cut, played fine or uppish and safe when Bhuvneshwar bounced. He also drove well as he gained confidence.
Meanwhile, Bell’s indifferent form continued. Bhuvneshwar nipped one back and as the ball rose, Bell gloved it to the slips.
At 70 for three, England’s dogged march continued. After 37 overs that were shared between Bhuvneshwar, Ishant and Shami, Dhoni employed Binny, who found purchase from the surface unlike the one at Trent Bridge.
He swung a bit and skidded a few but a maiden Test wicket proved elusive. Binny almost nailed one when Ballance (on 32) pushed forward, edged and enjoyed his fortune with both Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan at first slip, failing to go for the catch.
There was no such luck for Joe Root, who inner-edged onto his pads but found Ravindra Jadeja’s vociferous lbw appeal finding approval. Between lunch and tea, England added 74 off 29 overs while losing Bell and Root.
In the last session, Ballance continued to thrive and though Ali and he fell in succession, Michael Atherton rightly said on air: “Ballance is back in the news for the right reasons!”
India — 1st innings: Murali Vijay c Ballance b Plunkett 24 (67b, 4×4), Shikhar Dhawan c Ballance b Anderson 7 (11b, 1×4), Cheteshwar Pujara b Stokes 28 (117b, 4×4), Virat Kohli c Prior b Anderson 25 (34b, 4×4), Ajinkya Rahane c & b Anderson 103 (154b, 15×4, 1×6), M.S. Dhoni c Prior b Broad 1 (17b), Ravindra Jadeja lbw b Ali 3 (11b), Stuart Binny lbw b Anderson 9 (19b, 1×4), Bhuvneshwar Kumar b Broad 36 (84b, 7×4), Mohammed Shami c Cook b Stokes 19 (24b, 3×4), Ishant Sharma (not out) 12 (13b, 2×4); Extras (b-17, lb-10, nb-1): 28; Total (in 91.4 overs): 295.
Fall of wickets: 1-11 (Dhawan), 2-48 (Vijay), 3-86 (Kohli), 4-113 (Pujara), 5-123 (Dhoni), 6-128 (Jadeja), 7-145 (Binny), 8-235(Bhuvneshwar), 9-275 (Rahane).
England bowling: James Anderson 23-7-60-4, Stuart Broad 22-5-79-2, Liam Plunkett 15-5-51-1, Ben Stokes 17.4-5-40-2, Moeen Ali 14-2-38-1.
England — 1st innings: Alastair Cook c Dhoni b Bhuvneshwar 10 (29b, 2×4), Sam Robson c Dhoni b Bhuvneshwar 17 (42b, 1×4), Gary Ballance c Dhoni b Bhuvneshwar 110 (203b, 15×4), Ian Bell c Jadeja b Bhuvneshwar 16 (56b, 2×4), Joe Root lbw b Jadeja 13 (50b), Moeen Ali lbw b Vijay 32 (106b, 4×4), Liam Plunkett (batting) 4 (22b), Matt Prior (batting) 2 (11b); Extras (b-1, lb-9, nb-3, w-2): 15; Total (for six wkts. in 86 overs): 219.
Fall of wickets: 1-22 (Cook), 2-31 (Robson), 3-70 (Bell), 4-113 (Root), 5-211 (Ali), 6-214 (Ballance).
India bowling: Bhuvneshwar Kumar 23-9-46-4, Mohammed Shami 15-5-33-0, Ishant Sharma 17-5-32-0, Stuart Binny 10-0-45-0, Ravindra Jadeja 18-1-41-1, Murali Vijay 3-0-12-1.