Shikhar Dhawan was looking good before he got out © Getty Images
Shikhar Dhawan was looking good before he got out © Getty Images

 

By Arunabha Sengupta

 

Lord’s: Jul 19, 2014

 

The sun smiled down again as the Indian batsmen emerged to resume the innings. Except for the Members Stand, Lord’s was full to the brim. And as the day blossomed late into a beautiful one, the visitors consolidated with an admirable show of restraint and application — not really running away with the game but building a secure and solid platform to set themselves up for the decisive blows.

 

The English fielders came in without Alistair Cook, with Ian Bell deputising for the first few overs. The first over from James Anderson induced a snick from Muralli Vijay that fell short of Matt Prior. For some reason, Shikhar Dhawan hared down the wicket, looking for a single when there was not even a half for the taking. Joe Root, his youthful cheekiness keeping him alert to the possibilities, moved quickly from first slip to send in the return and the Indian opener just about scrambled back.

 

Anderson, running in from the Pavilion end, slanted balls across Dhawan, using the slope to move them away. The left handed opener drove him down the ground for three. Off the last ball of that over, Vijay repeated the stroke, getting three for himself, and India had the lead. The line of Anderson and Stuart Broad was much better than in the first innings. On the first day, the England bowlers had stubbornly stuck to their plan of keeping the balls outside the off stump, often short, depending on the Indian reputation to have a chase. Much of the morning conditions had been wasted with the Indian batsmen able to leave alone most of the wide offerings. This time they made the batsmen play.

 

Off Anderson’s third over after lunch, Dhawan took eight runs including a cut to the point boundary. India were 33 and Dhawan had raced to 27. Runs were coming freely as long as the southpaw was there. Anderson countered by coming round the wicket. He bowled fuller, the ball leaving the batsman after pitching. Dhawan was watchful, allowing a maiden over go by. At the other end Ben Stokes brought the ball back into Vijay. A run came off a streaky inside edge. Dhawan, looking more solid than he has in this tour, was starting to middle the ball well, find the gaps, rotate the strike. And just as he looked good for many, he fell. Stokes bowled short, Dhawan cut really hard, and Root, lunging towards his left at backward point, caught a blinder. The opening stand had been worth 40, Dhawan contributing 31 of them.

 

Cheteshwar Pujara opened his account with a delectable flick for a brace. Vijay, scoreless for long periods, watched the ball really closely and left anything that he did not have to play. Drinks were taken with India on 46 for one, Vijay on seven from 51 balls. On this tour this Indian opener has shown remarkable temperament in leaving ball after ball, admirably choosing discretion over valour. After the break, Pujara brought up the Indian fifty with a sweetly timed drive down to the extra cover boundary. Stuart Broad wasted plenty of deliveries by pitching way too short. When he strayed on the leg stump, Vijay clipped him for four between the keeper and leg slip. His first boundary had come in the 57th delivery.

 

Liam Plunkett came in as second change, replacing Stokes from the Nursery end, and was steered by Pujara for four. The Indian No 3 was straight and correct as ever, driving Broad down the ground for three. The two Indian batsmen had worn down the relentless pace attack, and Moeen Ali was introduced in the 23rd over of the innings for a spell during the last half hour before tea. The runs and the lead were creeping ahead. Plunkett kept a probing length, but occasionally his line strayed. When he drifted on to the pads, Pujara turned him to fine leg for four. And when he pitched up, the young batsman drove him past cover for four. The lead was over 50.

 

Cook kept a long on for Vijay and brought him up to mid-on for Pujara. On one occasion he allowed the man to stay in the in-field for Vijay, and the batsman skipped down the wicket to loft him for four over the fielder. Anderson bowled some incisive inswingers just before tea, but both Vijay and Pujara watched the ball closely and negotiated the period without damage. At tea India stood at 84 for one, the lead 60. Vijay has scored just 21 in the two hours, a picture of poise and patience. He has faced 89 balls in all, and he looks as if he can go on for much longer. Pujara is on 25, compact, correct and occasionally classy. The balance has shifted slightly towards India and, it will be upto the batsmen to consolidate further in the final session.

 

Complete coverage of India’s tour of England 2014

 

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry.He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)