England v India, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 3rd day July 19, 2014

India encouraged by variable bounce

Since India lost at Cape Town in 2006-07 by five wickets, India have batted first 14 times in Tests outside Asia; this is the 15th. They have lost five of those, either by an innings or by 10 wickets. Others have either been drawn or won.

This has been a young trend, but if India compete in these challenging Tests, they do not end up losing. India have competed on level terms for three days, and are effectively 145 for 4 with three and a half batsmen to follow. There is cause for optimism, but Cheteshwar Pujara is looking at a score of at least 300 to feel comfortable while defending.

"We are looking at 350 if we can," Pujara said. "First thing's first, the first target is 300. If we can bat well and get somewhere around 350, it will be a very good total to defend.

"We can't think of what target we want. What we can focus on is to bat well. Vijay and MS [Dhoni] are batting really well at the moment. If they can carry on, with Binny and Jadeja to come, if they can score some runs - and we can't forget Bhuvneshwar Kumar's batting in this series - so we have a few batsmen who can bat well and score runs for us. Focus is to score as many runs as possible and then think about it."

The pitch seems to have eased out from the first two days, but there is still enough seam movement to be had to keep the bowlers interested. Added to it is the variable bounce now making an appearance.

"There isn't much grass on the wicket now, but the bounce is variable now," Pujara said. "When I was batting a couple of balls stayed really low, and a couple of balls kicked, which weren't bouncers but they just kicked off the wicket. So yeah, there is variable bounce."

Like Pujara, Liam Plunkett thinks the game is in the balance. If India have confidence to draw from having defended well, England also know the Lord's pitch can flatten out towards the end. Plunkett was part of the Yorkshire side that earlier this summer failed to defend 472 against Middlesex.

"I was here when we got 'Chris Rogered' earlier in the season, on a wicket that did a little bit early on - a bit like this one," Plunkett said.

He would not say what sort of target will make them uncomfortable, but felt confident of his side's chances batting last on this pitch. "It's a good wicket, and I think the sun's just going to make it a bit flatter. The match is bit even at the minute. But if we come out in the morning and get one or two, it quickly changes in our favour."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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