India’s batting at Lord’s cannot be a habit. At least that’s what KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan, both forming India’s third opening combination in three Tests on this tour, looked keen on proving, compiling a rare fifty-run opening stand in the first session of the third Test between England and India at Trent Bridge. But all that came falling down two balls before the scheduled lunch break, when Cheteshwar Pujara decided to hook Chris Woakes and found the fielder at long leg, thrusting India three down at the end of a session they seemed to be winning.
Woakes, who came in second change, picked all three wickets to fall in the session, pushing his case to not just be a regular in this England XI but also take the new ball ahead of Stuart Broad. Dhawan fell to an outside edge to second slip whereas Rahul, set up with a slew of outswingers, was trapped in front by a clever inswinger. India also lost a review with that wicket, thanks to Pujara who implored Rahul into reviewing the decision. Ball-tracking showed three reds.
Despite the building gloom towards the end, India will take inspiration from their stoic opening stand. That the milestone was achieved after Joe Root, mistaking India’s batting faux pas for a certainty, and not without reason, opted to bowl made the occasion even sweeter for India. On a grass-laden pitch lacking the moisture England would have liked, Indian openers looked more assured in their defence, with Dhawan even upsetting the bowler’s lines and lengths by shuffling far outside off stump and flicking boundaries to fine leg.
The pitch played its part, allowing both the openers to adjust to the little swing and seam. England were guilty of pitching it short, evidenced by fruitless first spells by James Anderson and Broad, and wide too — look at the number of cut shots Dhawan played — but Woakes, having bowled just the one over in the wicketless first hour of play, came back with fuller lengths and exaggerated swing, and was ably supported by Ben Stokes at the other end.
Virat Kohli was troubled by Stuart Broad outside the off stump late in the session and his wicket will be key to India making any sense of this opportunity to bat first on a slow pitch and bring Ravichandran Ashwin into play later in the game.
Brief Scores: India 82/3 (Shikhar Dhawan 35, Lokesh Rahul 23; Chris Woakes 3-18) vs England.
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