|India 364: Rahul 129, Rohit 83, Anderson 5-62
|England 391: Root 180*, Bairstow 57, Siraj 4-94
|England lead by 27 runs
England captain Joe Root made a second masterful century in the space of a week, but the second Test is deliciously poised after India’s resurgence late on day three.
Just like last Saturday at Trent Bridge, Root imperiously carried the home side, this time batting through a sun-kissed day for an unbeaten 180 at Lord’s.
He was supported by Jonny Bairstow, whose 57 was his first Test half-century for two years, while Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler chipped in with 27 and 23 respectively.
Just as England looked set for a healthy first-innings lead, Ishant Sharma removed Moeen and Sam Curran in successive deliveries.
The hosts were eventually bowled out for 391 – an advantage of 27 – off the final ball of a compelling, entertaining day.
The direction of the match will now be shaped by India’s second innings, with the tourists set to bat again on a pitch that remains slow and flat, albeit with the occasional hint of low bounce.
Peerless Root does it again
England were fragile in the drawn first Test and in a vulnerable position when India reached 276-3 on the first day here, but have fought back through the two all-time greats in their side – Root and James Anderson.
Just like when Anderson returned 5-62 on Friday, there are not many superlatives left for Root, who is producing the sort of batting that few in the history of the English game have been capable of.
From 10 Tests, this was his fifth century of 2021. He was only denied the opportunity to become the first England player to make three double hundreds in a year because he ran out of partners.
From 48 not out overnight, there seemed an inevitability that Root would take advantage of ideal batting conditions when he drove to the point boundary in the second over of the day.
Barely a run was scored down the ground. Instead it was off-side drives and punches off front and back foot, delicate dabs to third man, with whips and flicks off the pads. He was never bogged down, hustling between the wickets as if his life depended on it.
In a repeat of last week, Root celebrated this hundred – his 22nd – in animated and emotional fashion, punching the air and howling to the heavens.
There was plenty more to come, including an audacious reverse scoop off the pace of Mohammed Siraj, Root remaining untouchable and soaking up the applause as the last man standing.
Supporting cast play their part
While Root was left to play a virtual lone hand at Trent Bridge, the support he received from the middle order here not only helped England back into this match, but may bode well for the future.
Bairstow has endured a difficult two-year period in which he has lost the wicketkeeping gloves, been dropped, recalled, rested and shunted around the order.
He showed glimpses in Nottingham and went further here, scoring freely in the first hour. Although he was able to reach his first fifty since the 2019 Ashes Test on this ground, the disappointment is that he was out pulling for the second time in a week, this time gloving Siraj to slip.
Buttler has looked out of touch, but was feeling his way until he was bowled through the gate, while the recalled Moeen’s judgement was excellent before he edged to first slip.
Mark Wood helped England into the lead, only to be run out in a mix-up – Root’s only mistake – while last man Anderson bravely came through being hit on the helmet by Jasprit Bumrah during a barrage of short-pitched bowling before being cleaned up by Mohammed Shami.
India’s perseverance pays off
This was an energy-sapping day for the India attack, who overcame the heat and the pitch to beat the bat with regularity.
They might rue the decision to omit off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, although it was the man who was preferred – pace bowler Ishant – who sparked the late fightback.
After Ishant snared Moeen, Curran edged his first ball to second slip. When Ollie Robinson was lbw, England had lost three wickets for 16 runs.
In truth, India’s openers were probably relieved to be spared an examination with the new ball on Saturday evening, but it is the tourists who will be under more pressure when this fascinating contest resumes on Sunday.
‘We can come with fire in our bellies ‘- what they said
England batsman Jonny Bairstow on Sky Sports: “Obviously Joe Root will be feeling pretty good. What a day for him. To past 9,000 runs and score 180 not out at the home of cricket is an amazing achievement.
“Hopefully we have enough runs on the board. We can come with fire in our bellies tomorrow. When Jimmy Anderson comes to bowl on Sunday, he’ll be ready. The game is finely poised.”
Former India wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta: “India are under pressure now. If they lose a couple of early wickets they are under pressure.
“So far it has been KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja who have scored most of the runs. The middle order is struggling and they have a long tail.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “That is a terrific effort from England. Joe Root led the way. It was a fine innings.
“Tomorrow should be a really fascinating day. We should have two really good days to come.”