Now, English batsmen punish India

Now, English batsmen punish India

England's Chris Woakes celebrates after reaching his maiden Test hundred against India on the third day of the second Test at Lord's in London on Saturday. Reuters

Nice crisp sunshine replaced the murky weather of Friday. Doom and gloom, however, remained writ large on the faces of the Indians for the second day running after Chris Woakes and Jonny Bairstow produced smashing knocks to put England in a dominating position here on Saturday.

Joining forces with England in a tricky spot at 131/5 — just 24 runs ahead of India — Woakes (120 batting, 159b, 18x4) and Bairstow (93, 144b, 12x4) first staged a stunning counter-attack in the second session before opening up their shoulders after tea to leave India completely deflated when stumps were drawn at Lord’s. Although rain has been predicted for most of Sunday, the duo’s 189-run partnership has given England (357/6) a lead off 250 runs and enough time on their hands to take a 2-0 lead.

Woakes, returning to the England side in place of Ben Stokes (attending his affray trial in Bristol), ensured the hosts didn’t miss the Durham all-rounder who had played an integral part in the pulsating first Test at Edgbaston. Returning from injury, the right-hander showed no ring rust whatsoever in hammering his maiden Test ton that was audacious yet calculative.

Not only was he aggressive against pacers Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami, he attacked spinners R Ashwin and Kuldeep Yadav to leave Virat Kohli, and in between Ajinkya Rahane, searching for options. He hardly took his foot off the pedal and with Bairstow too maintaining a high tempo, the Indians not only struggled to contain the flow of runs but found it difficult to protect themselves from the double flagellation.

Woakes overtook his partner in the 80s and even when he neared the landmark he showed no intention of cooling down. He brought up his maiden Test century with a pull shot off Hardik Pandya for three runs, the packed audience at the ‘Home of Cricket’ rising in unison to applaud a dashing show. And even when he reached the coveted three-figure, he didn’t lose his concentration but carried on to try and bury India under an avalanche of runs.  

Bairstow, who hurt India with a 70 in the first innings at Edgbaston, kept motoring along smoothly at the other end. He allowed his partners — first Buttler and then Woakes — to flourish while playing a typically counter-punching innings from the other end. There were a few swings and misses initially but he chose to take that gamble, aware that India weren’t defending a big total and a few quick runs will immediately put them on the back foot.

With all of it paying off in eventually a chance-less innings, India simply had to hope that Bairstow got himself out rather than trying to get him out. Bairstow finally offered Indian that moment in the 74th over when he flashed hard at Hardik Pandya ball. The edge flew fast but Dinesh Karthik pulled off a stunning catch to put an end to the ordeal.

Earlier though, Ishant and Shami bowled their hearts out in batting friendly conditions to give India some hope. They erred with their lines and lengths at the start but quickly sorted them to test England openers Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings. Shami, brilliant in the opening session, not only dismissed Jennings but scalped England skipper Joe Root at the stroke of lunch to reduce to England to 89/4. At that stage India had genuine hopes of making something out of the game but the brilliance of Bairstow and Woakes has ensured there can only be one winner from here on.

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