James Anderson hands India fright before rain halts England fightback

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James Anderson celebrates taking the wicket of Virat Kohli (AFP)
James Anderson celebrates taking the wicket of Virat Kohli (AFP)

If day one at Trent Bridge had been all about the batting collapse, then day two was the turn of two more English stalwarts, James Anderson and rain.

The latter arrived just before 3pm, to wash out almost all of the remainder of the day’s play. The former thrillingly struck twice in two balls – including the prize scalp of Indian skipper Virat Kohli for a first-ball duck – to just about keep England in a match that was threatening to slip away from them rapidly.

Having been skittled for just 183 in their first innings, it scarcely felt like an exaggeration to suggest that a poor first session from England could see their hopes of victory dwindle to almost nothing.

However India, resuming on their score of 21/0 overnight, were in no mood to hand the hosts back the advantage, openers KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma summoning all of their discipline to see off a threatening but largely luckless opening spell of bowling from Anderson and Ollie Robinson.

Robinson in particular was superb, seeing a couple of close LBW shouts turned down, and perhaps on another day, with a bit more fortune, he would have picked up a wicket or two. Instead all England got from the passage of play was a lost review, their second unsuccessful challenge inside the first 19 overs of the innings.

The delayed entrance of Stuart Broad into the attack only provided more of the same for England, 33 times the Indian batsmen played and missed inside the first 37 overs, but the tourists’ defences remained unbreached, approaching both the lunch break and the century stand without losing a wicket.

Then just as things were starting to look very grim for England, a sliver of hope, a rare bouncer from Robinson proved too tempting for Rohit who lifted it straight into the hands of Sam Curran at deep backward square leg – a morale boosting amuse bouche for England to take into the lunch break with India at 97/1.

Cheteshwar Pujara has long been India’s dependable rock at the top of the order but he rarely looked settled here, reprieved by DRS when given out LBW shouldering arms to Robinson, but on his way in the very next over, Anderson nibbling the ball off his outside edge on the way through to Jos Buttler.

Kohli walks back to the pavilion after getting out for a golden duck (AFP)
Kohli walks back to the pavilion after getting out for a golden duck (AFP)

Enter Kohli and the immediate resumption of his ongoing duel with Anderson, one of the most fascinating in Test cricket’s recent history.

It has been a rivalry of two halves, Anderson’s first 111 balls to the Indian batsman saw him score just 30 runs, losing his wicket five times in the process. Kohli however had the better of the next 454 balls, managing 206 runs without losing his wicket once. When asked in the build up to this series how he intended to counter the threat of Anderson this time around he simply replied “I’ll just bat”.

Tragically for India’s captain it was not a strategy he got much time to road test, prodding forward to his first ball from Anderson and only able to nick it through to Buttler, suddenly England’s talisman was on a hat trick and the opposition 104/3.

It was a passage of play that roused the previously subdued Trent Bridge crowd, their roars growing only louder when Ajinkya Rahane contrived to run himself out three overs later, sent back when setting off for a single that was never there, Jonny Bairstow gleefully hurling down the stumps at the non-strikers end to reduce India to 112/4.

With Rishabh Pant determined not to let the match situation get in the way of playing his natural game, swinging from the off against Anderson, more wickets felt closer for England – indeed before bad light struck to halt proceedings they should have had another, Rahul dropped at second slip by Dom Sibley on 52, the Englishman’s seventh drop in the slips in his 20-match Test career.

Anderson of England celebrates taking the wicket of Virat Kohli (Getty)
Anderson of England celebrates taking the wicket of Virat Kohli (Getty)

With the players already off for bad light, the rain and a sprinkling of farce was all the day had left to offer. Twice play resumed, although only three further balls were actually bowled, one when play restarted for the first time at 4.15pm and two more 45 minutes later, Anderson’s over remains still two balls from completion.

If the first session had largely belonged to India, the second to Anderson and England, then the remainder of the day was entirely the rain’s and with the forecast looking grim for the rest of this Test it could be the latter who ultimately wins out here, a blow made all the greater by the tantalising glimpse the day had given of the series battle ahead.

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