England's rocky foundations become a potentially series-defining shift

Up until the moment that Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes came together in the afternoon session, to batter India out of the Test and potentially the series, it had looked like being another day in which England's batsmen would end up doing just enough.

When Woakes replaced Jos Buttler at 131 for 5 in the 32nd over, England were on course for just enough runs to keep their team in the ascendancy, having held onto just enough slip catches to keep their hard-toiling bowlers from throttling them.

There was probably going to be just enough play on what promises to be a dank and miserable Sunday to cement their dominance. And if, come Monday, England found themselves 2-0 up with three Tests to come, there would just about be enough cricket left in the series for India to claw their way back into contention.

As a recipe for long-term success, it left rather a lot to be desired. As a means to retain the drama in what is threatening to turn into a deeply flawed series, England's lingering air of flakiness was looking like the best leveller available. On the evidence of these past few days at Lord's, their opponents seemed to have left their competitive spirit on the red-eye rattler from Birmingham to Marylebone.

But then Bairstow and Woakes starting climbing into their day's work - showing, surely not for the last time in the Trevor Bayliss era, that the depth of England's batting options can often be a pretty decent proxy for the quality of some of those options. The ball lost its hardness, India's under-stocked seam department ran out of puff, and R Ashwin was left to graze in the outfield until there was no control left to exert - by which stage Kuldeep Yadav (the wrong Yadav in the circumstances) had provided a shadow of his menace from the one-dayers, when the onus had been on England to attack his variations rather than sit and wait for the bad ball.

And thus, in the space of two hours either side of tea, the contest slipped as quickly down the gurgler for India as those second-afternoon floodplains on Lord's super-absorbent outfield.

"There wasn't a huge amount of turn there, so when the spinners were on we felt we'd done our job," said Woakes, England's centurion and Lord of Lord's, who became only the fifth player in history to etch himself a place on all three of the dressing-room honours boards. "I wasn't looking too much at the scoreboard in terms of what lead we needed. But the ball got a little bit softer, and it made it a little bit easier."

That is not to say, however, that England were simply gifted the upper hand (or any balance of power that remained to be claimed after their first-innings bowling efforts). In the first instance, the momentum was seized by Bairstow, who produced a pocket battleship of an innings, studded with the sort of piercing drives through the covers with which he has kickstarted so many ODI onslaughts in recent times.

He arrived to a scene of familiar false dawns from England's top order - three scores between 11 and 28, which soon became four when Joe Root was pinned on the shin for 19 by a Mohammed Shami nipbacker that kept a touch low. For the Alpha and Omega of England's batting, Alastair Cook and Ollie Pope, scores of 21 and 28 in their 158th and first Tests respectively said as much or as little about their respective games as you'd care to read into them - Cook looked composed until, once again, he attracted the sort of jaffa that his former self would surely have survived, while Pope's wristy intent telegraphed both raw and powerful talent, as well as the inevitable naivety that a man who had never previously come to the crease in the first ten overs of a first-class fixture was bound to display.

But that was the context of the contest when, in the 39th over, Bairstow nudged Ashwin's first delivery of the match off his hip and become the first player in either team to reach 30. And when, two overs later, he dumped Ashwin back over his head for a one-bounce four, he surpassed Hardik Pandya's 31, in the second innings at Edgbaston, which remains the highest score in the series by any Indian batsman who is not Virat Kohli.

These are not the parameters by which you are usually judged when squaring up to the world's No.1 Test team. Thereafter, England capitalised on a baffling combination of Indian team selection and tactical deployment, to power themselves in a position from which their opponents have no realistic hope of salvation other than the elements - and given the aforementioned resilience of that outfield, the prospect of more cloud cover on Sunday and Monday is actually likelier to contribute to their downfall.

"If there is a little bit of rain around tomorrow, that might play into our hands," Woakes said. "A bit overcast, bit of moisture around, we hope it might move around like it did [on Friday]. I'm sure it won't quite do that - but with a significant lead, whenever we do come to bowl, we hope we can put the Indian batsmen under pressure."

When, at the start of the summer, word filtered out that Kohli was sizing up a month at Surrey, with the likes of Ishant Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara already bedding into county stints of their own, it seemed a given that India would provide the sternest test yet of England's four-year unbeaten record in home Test series - a record that has been threatened by more than a few less vaunted opponents in recent years. The anticipated challenge came to pass in fleetingly glorious fashion at Edgbaston, but it's gone the same way as the heatwave in these past few days.