Bhuvneshwar strikes as India maintain edge

Bhuvneshwar strikes as India maintain edge

Ballance century keeps England afloat

Bhuvneshwar strikes as India maintain edge

 Bhuvneshwar Kumar carries a steely heart inside his fragile frame, and doubters could watch replays of the second day’s play of the second Test on Friday.

His four strikes spread over four energy sapping, long spells helped India put clamps on England’s progress. The home side was 219 for six at close, trailing by 76 runs, after bowling out India for 295, seven minutes into the first session of the day.

However, Bhuvneshwar wouldn’t be able to claim full honours of the day. Gary Ballance made a composed 110, his second hundred in a row at Lord’s, to bail England out of troubled waters after Bhuvneshwar’s burst saw them tottering at 70 for three.

Gauging the condition to perfection was the secret behind the success of Bhuvneshwar and Ballance. Let’s study the effort of Bhuvneshwar first. Once the Indian innings ended early in the morning session, Indians made most of the favourable conditions, and there was no better bowler on view than Bhuvneshwar.

Bhuvneshwar hit the precise length – much fuller than his English counterparts – and reaped rich rewards. His bowling mates – Mohammmad Shami and Ishant Sharma were less threatening. But Shami would have a chance to rejoice had Ajinkya Rahane not spilled an easy chance at first slip offered by Sam Robson.

But that blemish apart, India were nearly perfect on the field, and Bhuvneshwar was the leader. Alastair Cook, once the companion of daddy hundreds, has been struggling to reach even double digits these days, and the Essex left-hander’s struggle continued for another innings.

Timid push

Bhuvneshwar caught the England skipper in the crease with fuller delivery that also curled away lightly, and a timid push without even the slightest hint of footwork resulted in an edge and MS Dhoni did the rest behind the stumps. Robson fell four overs later to Bhuvneshwar. It was a long and testing spell for him, ending it at 10-4-17-2.

Once Bhuvneshwar went back to catch some breath; England batsmen –Ballance and Ian Bell – exploited the medium pacer’s absence. It was not that Ballance and Bell sped away like a sports car, but they were able to milk Ishant and Shami for some runs to ease pressure on England.

Bhuvneshwar, who returned for a second spell, snapped the smooth moving second wicket alliance worth 39 runs. Bell wanted to avoid a delivery that was pitched short, but couldn’t judge the inward movement or bounce correctly as the ball landed in the hands of Ravindra Jadeja at third slip after taking a deflection off his gloves.

Bhuvneshwar’s second spell read 7-3-17-1, and bowling 17 overs within two sessions spoke volumes about his grit.

At 70 for three, England were wobbly and then they slipped into a marshy area when Jadeja trapped Joe Root in front of the wicket to reduce the hosts to 113 for four.

However, they found a savior in a 24-year-old lad, born and brought up in the tobacco farms of Zimbabwe, a country for which he appeared in the Under-19 World Cup in 2006. On a sun-drenched day, Ballance displayed all his farmer’s instincts, carefully nourishing the England innings back to life.

Ballance’s strategy was simple – cut out all the risks in the early part of the innings as he seldom offered a stroke outside the off-stump. Once the Indian bowlers took the feet off the pedal slightly, particularly in the third session, the left-hander started playing shots all around the park.

Till then a picture of sedate confidence, Ballance opened up in wonderful fashion against Stuart Binny to reach his second Test hundred. A lovely flick off the hips off the medium pacer took him to 99, and a delicately timed drive to mid-wicket a ball later took him past the three-figure mark. He also had a Moeen Ali for his company as the pair added 98 for the fifth wicket.

However, both couldn’t see the day through. Ali fell to M Vijay and Ballance, justifiably, to the man who tortured England the most – Bhuvneshwar.

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