Hardik Pandya’s fifer puts India in command

Hardik Pandya celebrates after dismissing England's Chris Woakes on the second day of the third Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on Sunday. AP-PTI

The much-hyped brilliance of Hardik Pandya as a bowler in white flannels finally came to fruition and opener Shikhar Dhawan probably breathed new life into a tormenting tour as India took a massive stride towards a morale-lifting victory in the third Test.

Trailing 0-2 and needing some inspiration after frittering away all the hard work of day one in a poor first session on Sunday, the Indians came roaring back in spectacular fashion over next two sessions at Trent Bridge. Underfire all-rounder Pandya ignited the spark with a career-best haul of 5/28 — all wickets in one mesmerising spell — that shot out England for 161.

Dhawan, perhaps playing with his spot in the series on the line, then came out all guns blazing, stroking an easy on the eye 44 as India took stumps at 124/2, a massive lead of 292 runs.

Pilloried by many for neither making an impact with the ball nor the bat this series, Pandya gave an ample demonstration of his capabilities as a bowler. Swinging the ball one way and another, and using the width of the crease effectively in his six-over spell, the 24-year-old Baroda cricketer constantly kept asking tough questions in helpful conditions which the strong England middle-order didn’t have an answer to.

Coming into the attack in the 25th over after Jasprit Bumrah (2/37) and Ishant Sharma (2/32) had the hosts in a spot of bother at 75/3, Pandya scalped England skipper Joe Root with his very first ball.

Although Root had reservations over the legitimacy of KL Rahul’s superb low catch at second slip, the third umpire ruled it out as Indians celebrated vehemently.

Thrilled by the emphatic take-off, Pandya just soared from thereon, harrying England with his nippy pace and swing. Bowling with the confidence of a frontline pacer rather than one brought on to give the main men a breather, he was spot on with almost every delivery he hurled.

While he tried doing too much initially, he quickly settled in and banked on his main weapon — the darting in-swingers from wide of the crease. He then nicely threw in the out-swingers occasionally with the ball holding its line at times that caused problems for the England batsmen.

With Mohammed Shami, extremely erratic in the morning session, regaining his line and length at the other end, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow — naturally attacking player — struggled to enforce things. The relentless pressure from both ends resulted in the fall of Stokes’ wicket.

Pandya then took centre-stage, blasting past their lower middle-order with rarely seen effectiveness.

He swung one in for Bairstow and the wicketkeeper, trying to flick it, ended up getting a thick edge to slips. In the last ball of the same over — 31st — he sent back Chris Woakes. Pandya accounted for two more wickets in his very next over, first removing Adil Rashid with a pitched up ball and then trapped Stuart Broad leg before wicket to leave England reeling.

Limited overs wicket-keeper Jos Buttler save the Three Lions from the embarrassment of a follow-on with some outrageous shots but Bumrah ensured India still took a huge 168-run lead.

Seeking quick runs, openers KL Rahul and Dhawan came out swinging, scoring at six runs per over that further pushed England on the back foot.

They departed yet again against the run of the play but this time India appear in cruise control with skipper Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara at the crease. 

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Hardik Pandya’s fifer puts India in command

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