Joe Root and his men sewed their lips and let their cricket do the talking. James Anderson’s cultured destruction of India’s top order was connoisseur’s cricket. 78 all out in 40.4 overs was how the Indian innings finished. Twice inside a year now, India have failed to reach three-figures in a Test innings. 36 in Adelaide happened barely nine months ago. India’s innings had two double-digit scores. England finished the day on 120 for no loss, with Haseeb Hameed and Rory Burns remaining unbeaten on 60 and 52 respectively. Only the first day of the third Test, but the tourists are in for a long haul.
At the first drinks break, Anderson was the speaker in the England team huddle. His monologue came in the middle of a spell that read: 6-3-6-3. KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli were his scalps. A demoralised England searched for inspiration. The great man led by example.
It was a swing bowling masterclass, the video of which should be made available at every cricket academy. It’s a matter of conjecture if in the future any seamer would be able to make a cricket ball follow his command like Anderson does.
It had everything; swing, the use of seam, perfect line and length, how to use the crease and also, how to set up batsmen before removing them.
Rahul was the first to go after Kohli finally won the toss and elected to bat. Rahul carried the confidence of his Lord’s hundred to Leeds and went for a full-blooded drive, rather than a firm push for a couple, to a full delivery from Anderson that held its line. The Indian opener was set up with a series of inswingers. He was outsmarted.
Pujara was done in by the angle and late movement. Anderson went a little wide of the crease and conventional outswing took the ball away after pitching. Pujara was already committed to playing it.
Double whammy for Jimmy, and a bit weirdly, those were his first two new-ball wickets this summer. Before a sold-out crowd, the stage was set for a mouth-watering Anderson versus Kohli contest.
Kohli started off well, pushing instead of driving, to an Anderson half-volley past mid-off for a three. But the England fast bowler’s trickery and accuracy gave the India captain very little margin for error. Four predictable outswingers came, seam pointing towards slip and allowing Kohli to leave them alone. The fifth ball of the over was a bit fuller with a wobbly seam. Kohli went for an expansive drive through mid-off and another catch went to Jos Buttler behind the stumps. Anderson set up his bête-noire before delivering the final blow. India were 21 for 3 and gasping for breath.
Leaving aside the Twitter trolls that followed Kohli’s dismissal, his average in the last 10 Tests is 24.56. It’s not quite back to 2014, but India’s best batsman is going through a serious lean patch.
Ajinkya Rahane scored an important half-century in the second innings at Lord’s. But facing Anderson early into his innings could have been asking for trouble. Rohit Sharma needed to shield his partner and a gripping phase of cricket ensued. Anderson reserved the best ball of the morning for Rohit. The seam wobbled, there was a hint of the ball going away before it nibbled back and beat the inside edge. The master was at work. When the 39-year-old quick finished his first spell, his figures read: 8-5-6-3. Anderson’s colleagues picked it up from there and finished the job so quickly that he wasn’t required to bowl again.
About 6.5 yards from the popping crease is considered to be the optimal length, seamers’ average wicket length, at Headingley. Anderson hit it for fun.
Rahane played himself in before getting out at the stroke of lunch, committing himself to the push to an Ollie Robinson delivery on the fifth stump. India’s survival depended on Rohit. His batting was monkish in the first session. The man with three ODI double hundreds channelled his inner Geoffrey Boycott in the former England opener’s backyard.
His uncharacteristic 105-ball 19 had application and a lot of quality. But after doing all the hard work, Rohit threw it away, tamely pulling a short ball from Craig Overton to Robinson at mid-on. A ball previously, he failed to put away a full-toss. It probably played on his mind.
Yet again, Rishabh Pant offered an angled bat to a widish, away-going delivery without moving his feet. Similar dismissals in back-to-back innings now, but he is seemingly insulated by ‘that’s how he plays’ vibe. Ravindra Jadeja was leg-before off a Sam Curran delivery and unlike Lord’s, there was no resistance from the Indian tail. England bowled full to them.
When England’s innings began, Kohli missed a trick by not pairing up Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami with the new ball. For India, it was a day to forget.