By Ashis Ray
Lord’s (London), Aug 15 (IANS) The third day of the 2nd test panned out predictably, except for the drama of a 10-ball over from a conspicuously wicketless Jasprit Bumrah, caused by four no-balls.
The sun shone and while it did, Joe Root fixed the roof, after Indian bowlers had bored holes into it in the form of three wickets the previous evening.
The strips of grass on the pitch had become fainter, the 22 yards in the middle looked drier, it was the best day for batting so far in the match. Root in the company of Jonny Bairstow capitalised by adding 121 runs for the fourth wicket.
Root duly completed his second century in consecutive tests, a majestic unbeaten effort, his third in his last six against India, his seventh versus the Indians altogether. He is currently not only England’s pre- eminent batsman, but one of the best in the world; time and again proving himself under the burden of his side being rather dependant on him.
In the absence of Ben Stokes, the two others most likely to contribute for England were Bairstow and Jos Buttler. In the event the Yorkshireman did before mis-hooking the lively and persevering Mohammed Siraj’s third victim.
The Indian pacemen beat the bat, but without luck. Though Root’s gamble to make India take first strike after winning the toss failed, it gave England the benefit of enjoying better conditions for batting. Ultimately, the old war-horse Ishant Sharma, operating around the stumps, made two successive balls straighten to find left-handers Moeen Ali and Sam Curran’s outside edges.
India might experience the misfortune of batting under cloudier skies — and thereby the swing virtuoso Jimmy Anderson being aided in wobbling the ball both ways — on the fourth day. That said, England’s first innings lead of 29 wasn’t that significant.
Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja pegged away without troubling the batsmen. The real test of a slow bowler is his ability to so on flat or grassy wickets. Ravichandran Ashwin has in recent years established his credentials in this respect. He can deceive in the air as well as with his variety of off-spin, knuckle ball and even leg-spin.
The Indian tour selectors’ is an unenviable choice. But if Jadeja doesn’t play a decisive role with the ball in England’s second innings, the question will inevitably be asked as to whether it was wise to exclude a potential all-weather wicket-taking spinner.
(Senior cricket writer Ashis Ray is a broadcaster and author of the book ‘Cricket World Cup: The Indian Challenge’)