James Anderson grabbed a couple of crucial breakthroughs for England just as their decision to bowl first in the second LV= Insurance Test against India was threatening to backfire at Lord’s.
Seduced by gloomy overhead conditions, Joe Root invited the tourists to bat first and watched with frustration as Rohit Sharma stroked a classy 83 in an opening stand of 126.
Anderson had been a major injury doubt for the match after reporting a tight quad 24 hours earlier but he was passed fit and proceeded to dismiss Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara to drag India back to 157 for two at tea.
At 39 he continues to defy all expectations and without his double strike, England would surely have sunk. The task still looked a tough one, with KL Rahul resolute on 55 not out and Virat Kohli fresh at the crease.
England team-sheet contained three changes – Mark Wood replacing the injured Stuart Broad, Moeen Ali in for Dan Lawrence and Haseeb Hameed’s five-year absence finally ending as he slotted in for the struggling Zak Crawley.
Yet Anderson’s inclusion was perhaps most interesting as he was cleared for action under cloudy skies.
Showers intervened at either end of the morning session, with just 18.4 overs possible before lunch, but when play was possible there was precious little for the bowlers to work with as India reached 46 without loss.
Anderson and Ollie Robinson were unable to generate much danger with the new ball but kept the scoring down, only for Sam Curran to squander the pressure with a costly spell. The left-armer leaked the first six boundaries of the innings, all to Rohit, who scored just eight from his first 46 balls before opening up in style.
By the time the afternoon session was under way he was in complete control, facing down Mark Wood’s 94mph bouncers without a care. He pulled two of them for four and hooked another high over fine leg for six immediately after reaching his half-century.
He was equally adept against Moeen’s spin, skipping down the pitch and lofting a one-bounce four as India reached 100. He was responsible for 75 of them, with Rahul a virtual spectator on 16no.
England were looking decidedly downbeat when he belatedly joined the party, smashing Moeen for six after 107 balls of almost complete abstinence, but Anderson was on hand to raise spirits.
After 43 chanceless overs he broke through Rohit’s defences, nipping one past the inside edge and into the stumps after a flick off the back leg. Pujara was more obliging prey, turning in another deeply unconvincing innings of nine before prodding Anderson to Jonny Bairstow at second slip.
It was fitting reward for a superb spell but his hopes of getting hold of Kohli early were scuppered by the tea interval.
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