The wily old James Anderson once again got his “bunny” Virat Kohli in a mesmerising spell that undid India’s solid opening stand to leave them tottering at 125 for four against England on a rain-curtailed day two of the opening Test.
The 39-year-old Anderson (13.4-7-15-2) swung it in England’s favour with successive precision deliveries that got Cheteshwar Pujara (4) and Virat Kohli (0) as India from 97 for no loss slumped to 112 for four in a space of less than six overs.
The in-from KL Rahul (57 batting off 151 balls) is still standing tall amid ruins alongside Rishabh Pant (7 batting) but the advantage that India got in the opening session was neutralised by Anderson’s spell and the pressure also led to an unfortunate run-out of Ajinkya Rahane (5).
Rahul’s classy Test match batting would surely be a relief for the Indian team management after the talented Karnataka batsman lost his place in the longest formats due to a prolonged bad patch.
He could have also been Anderson’s third victim but was dropped in the slips, his only batting glitch on the day.
The nine fours, mostly drives, were majestic and the control over his own mind while selecting the bad balls under overcast conditions was exemplary.
But Anderson did take the cake on the day the pacer with the highest number of Test matches under his belt (163rd game) equalled Anil Kumble’s record of 619 scalps. He matched Kumble’s record after fooling the Indian captain once again in the corridor of uncertainty.
It was a fuller delivery that Kohli played for the inswinger but it held its line to take a healthy edge into Jos Buttler’s gloves. Both Kohli and Anderson would have a sense of deja vu thinking about what happened in 2014.
A ball before, the artist was at work as he got Pujara forward with one that was shaping into him in the air but deviated away when he pressed forward for Buttler to take a low catch.
The manner of dismissal is sure to increase the cobwebs in Pujara’s mind as this series is certainly going to have a bearing on his international future.
The delivery could have got any batter out but Pujara’s 16-ball, 17-minute brief stay did indicate that he is under tremendous pressure.
He could have been dismissed earlier by Ollie Robinson (15-5-32-1) when he shouldered arms to a straight delivery but the height factor came to his rescue.
However, Indian team had one of its best opening stands in recent tours of England before Rohit Sharma’s (36 off 107 balls) now familiar propensity to pull brought about his downfall at the stroke of lunch.
The opening duo did well enough to keep the four-pronged home team attack at bay but Rohit’s attempt to dispatch Robinson’s short ball behind the square leg boundary didn’t quite work out as he threw it away after doing all the hard work.
The partnership certainly put England on the back-foot with a deep point being stationed at times to stop the flow of boundaries.
They patiently waited for the loose deliveries and played some delightful drives, keeping the scoreboard ticking with Rahul blending his caution and aggression in equal measure to remain undefeated.
Their gameplan was simple and that was to see off the first hour with minimum risks. Rohit, in particular, showed his technical prowess getting right behind the moving deliveries.
He was ready to play the waiting game, something that’s not exactly his characteristic, showing how badly he wants to get a significant score in overseas conditions.
But when the opportunity presented itself, he did show Robinson as to why he is rated so highly amongst his peers with a superb back-drive and when required opened his bat face to glide it between point and gully or flick one off his hips.
Rahul, who came into the match with runs behind his back, was on 11 in his first 60 balls but then hit some exquisite square and cover drives when the ball stopped moving around after 30-over mark.
He understood that he had the game to accelerate and did just that during the last 45 minutes. Once Sam Curran came into bowl, the lack of express pace helped them as both lunged forward with pronounced front-press to beat the off-side cordon.
However on the third day, he would perhaps need to start from scratch after multiple interruptions in play and get a big one.