England frustrated as Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara lead India resistance

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Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli leave the field unbeaten on the third evening (AFP via Getty Images)
Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli leave the field unbeaten on the third evening (AFP via Getty Images)

England enjoyed the perfect first day to this Headingley Test, then a very decent second. On the third, India put the skids on their charge for victory.

England were still well in charge of this match when bad light brought a slightly premature end to the day after a period of two spinners, Moeen Ali and Joe Root, bowling in tandem. They are still 139 in front, and have a new ball available immediately on Saturday. India’s tail is long.

But given they had been bowled out early in the day for 432, with a whopping lead of 354, it was a source of disappointment that England managed just two Indian wickets. One came with the final ball of the first session, the other just after tea. India are still in this game.

Otherwise India’s progress was serene, and some of the loudest roars from the crowd had little to do with the action at all. A plane flew over Headingley with a banner reading “Sack The ECB and Save Test Cricket”, which seemed to entertain the locals. Then Jarvo 69 invaded the field for the second time in as many Tests, this time dressed to bat after the loss of one of India’s wickets fell.

England could not be accused of bowling poorly, although Jimmy Anderson seems a little less effective in the second innings these days and Sam Curran is not troubling India’s top order at all. Moeen was underused, but the wicket-takers Craig Overton and Ollie Robinson (also the two wickets to fall first thing, lbw to Mohammed Shami then bowled slogging Jasprit Bumrah) were excellent.

There were no dropped catches, although their reviewing was a little off. They opted to review a Robinson lbw when Rohit had 35, but it never looked right. A couple of overs later, Root tried to review again, but made his T-sign too late. Inevitably, Robinson’s delivery – which passed very close to Rohit’s bat – was striking the stumps.

He had 39 then, and added 20 more before he was aggrieved to have to leave stage left having been given out lbw to Robinson shortly after tea. The ball really was only just clipping the stumps.

Rohit had batted terrifically for his second half-century of a series in which he has already faced almost 600 balls. His defence is staunch, and he punishes the poor ball with style.

His opening partnership with KL Rahul lasted 19 overs, until – on the stroke of lunch – Overton found Rahul’s edge, and Jonny Bairstow took a stunning one-handed grab at second slip, falling in front of Root at first. It was not Bairstow’s catch at all, but it was a beautiful take, and England could barely believe it.

Cheteshwar Pujara joined Rohit after lunch, and was positive from the off. He timed the ball better than he has all summer and looked extremely solid. He followed Rohit to fifty and, after the opener’s wicket, shared an unbeaten 99 with Virat Kohli. The captain has his highest score of the series, 45, while Pujara has his highest Test score since January 2019, and will heads to his bed in the nervous nineties.

Another vital passage looms on Saturday morning, when England will take the new ball. Negotiate that, and India more than one result seems possible.

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