Boldness brings reward for India in show of character

Harmison: India would be the happier team at stumps (1:19)

Steve Harmison praises India's patient approach with the bat on the first day at Trent Bridge (1:19)

This is how they imagined they would play. This is how England expected India to play. It just took two Test defeats for Virat Kohli's men to finally turn up.

When confronted with now or never, the chips started falling into place. Weakness of mind and lack of application gave way under the strength of their resolve at Trent Bridge. They performed their roles confidently, and, consequently India are now in a better position compared to any other point in this series so far.

Each of their batsman made subtle changes to their technique. They played with soft hands and that was evident from the fact that far fewer edges flew behind the wicket. It did not help England that barring Chris Woakes, the other seamers, bowled more short than full.

Shikhar Dhawan waited for the ball more than he had at Edgbaston, where he had thrown away his wicket by playing with hard hands. This time opener concentrated on rotating strike with KL Rahul, who too was quite circumspect in the first hour. Crucially, India did not lose any wickets in that first hour. More crucially, the run rate throughout the day did not drop below three.

In the first two Tests India had failed to start well, which put undue pressure on the middle and lower order and became too much of a burden for Kohli to carry. But on the back of a 60-run opening stand, the captain and his deputy Ajinkya Rahane walked into the middle for the second session rejuvenated.

There might have been some nerves, keeping in mind the strange shot selection from Cheteshwar Pujara, his hook on the stroke of lunch resulting in his downfall. Kohli, too, had been beaten by Broad a couple of times and came very close to being lbw early in his innings.

As the clouds cleared and Trent Bridge bristled under bright sunshine, India's best pair of batsmen took advantage of a slow and dry pitch with low bounce. The focus was on Rahane. He has been dismissed, wafting casually outside the off stump in this series, despite looking comfortable at the start of every innings in this Test series.

The more batting-friendly conditions allowed Rahane to find his touch swiftly. He was meeting the ball under his eyeline with a straight bat. Like Kohli, he did not go seeking the ball, instead he allowed it to come to him. Both men exchanged strike frequently, something India had forgotten at Edgbaston and Lord's.

The best thing about Rahane was he was much bolder than he has been in the last year, a time when he could not reach a half-century in eight previous Tests.

Fierce cuts, firm pushes, nice punched drives, clear calls were the hallmarks or his innings here. He looked more assured and that was because he displayed a clarity of thought and purpose. The lack of those aspects was what Kohli, the head coach Ravi Shastri and Rahane himself had spoken of as the reason behind India's batting failures. The message had been internalised and every batsman executed the plan. Rahane, for example, lasted longer in the middle - in terms of both balls and time - than he had done at Edgbaston and Lord's combined.

There was no holding back. From Dhawan, to Rahul to Kohli to Rahane - each one took forward the good work and built the collective confidence. In the first session, India's batsmen left 68 deliveries (40%) in 26.4 overs. In the second, Kohli and Rahane were a bit more aggressive as they played through the entire session. The pair left just 39 balls out of 29.2 overs which was 22.15%. In the third, India left alone a mere 47 deliveries (25.26%) in 31 overs. They were positive.

As it happens when you put in the work, luck started favouring India too. Rahane cut hard against Woakes towards Anderson at point. Anderson jumped, but could not hold to a difficult catch. Three overs later, Kohli was beaten, twice, by beautiful away swingers from Broad, who had been stung by a wasp before he started the over. The pain spurred Broad on. He exchanged words with Kohli, who did not hold back. Both Rahane and Kohli had just made half centuries.

Given the opportunity to bat on a clear day, on a pitch that looked good for batting first despite Joe Root's decision to bowl, India definitely played with more freedom and were not afraid to express themselves. Take the example of debutant Rishabh Pant: he punched his first delivery in Test cricket aggressively and lofted the next one for a six. The bowler, Adil Rashid, could do little more than cup his face with a chuckle.

Despite helping India to a good positon, both Rahane and Kohli would have been frustrated not to convert to three-figures. Rahane wanted to take advantage of the soft ball and tired bowlers and had switched to attack mode in the last 10 minutes of his stay. Kohli was nearing his second century of the series and got carried away when he edged a drive to slip against Rashid.

Still the fourth-wicket partnership of 159 was notable - India's first century stand of the series, better than anything they managed on tour in South Africa and their first in England since the opening Test of the 2014 tour which was also at Trent Bridge. Kohli had pointed out that the absence of partnerships, no matter how big or small, was influencing the stability of the batting. Today the Indian batting looked more stable, the batsmen more composed and much bolder.

Stats by Bharath Seervi