India 329 (Kohli 97, Rahane 81, Anderson 3-64) and 124 for 2 (Pujara 33*, Kohli 8*) lead England 161 (Buttler 39, Pandya 5-28) by 292 runs
"Is he a batsman who bowls?" "Is he a bowler who bats?" "What is Hardik Pandya?"
In the lead-up to the third Test, it seemed Pandya was the man responsible for the 0-2 scoreline for India. Pandya seemed to be paying the price for ill-conceived comparisons with Kapil Dev early on in his career. What is Hardik Pandya, they all asked?
Pandya to Virat Kohli is the bowler he wants to go to when the lead bowlers are losing intensity in Tests. He is the batsman who will sell his wicket dearly. Pandya had done each of those in the series so far, yet he came into the Trent Bridge Test under pressure. His moment to justify his selection came when Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah had bowled long spells to drag India back into the contest after a horrible start with the new ball. R Ashwin was injured, and India needed a bowler to hold one end up. Pandya did way more, taking five wickets in 29 balls, making sure the hard work of Ishant and Bumrah didn't go to waste.
Pandya, Ishant and Bumrah combined to bowl England out in a session, the third time they have crashed to this ignominy in their last 24 Tests. Despite a start of 46 for 0 before lunch, having taken India's four standing wickets for 22 before that, England crashed to a 168-run deficit thanks to that disastrous session. In the final session, with the mind free and under no pressure, against a demoralised bowling attack, India went on to unleash their range of stroke-play to score at four an over and take their lead to 292.
The real hard work had been done before Pandya came on to bowl, but not even his harshest critic will begrudge him that moment of glory. The comeback for India began when they finally went to Ishant after lunch. Until then, Mohammed Shami and Bumrah had sprayed the ball around. Post lunch, Ishant settled into a Test-match length just outside off. The ball was at a stage where it has started swinging this series. Alastair Cook drove loosely in the first over. Got four. Did that again two overs later. Was dropped. Then pushed at the best of the lot, and the faint edge went for the first of five catches for debutant Rishabh Pant.
The next ball produced the worst shot of the innings. Keaton Jennings had been given a largely untested start for the third time this series. Bumrah was going wide on the crease and angling short balls across him from over the wicket. India were only looking for some control on that run rate, but he managed to poke at one he could have left well alone. Two wickets in two balls.
Now began an unusual form of attack. Unless it is reversing, a lot of Test cricket between right-arm quicks and right-hand batsmen is about the threat of the outside edge. Bowlers keep bowling good length outside off to test the batsmen's technique, every now and then slipping an inswinger or a straight ball to chance an lbw or a bowled dismissal. The pair of Ishant and Bumrah, though, bowl predominantly inswing, looking for bowled and lbw dismissals. One of the pitfalls of this is runs to leg, but when they get it right, it becomes mentally taxing in that you have to play at every ball.
And Ishant and Bumrah got it right this time. They got the field from their captain, and they were at the batsmen throughout their spells of seven and eight overs. What made it more mentally challenging for the batsmen was that both the bowlers displayed they had the ability to threaten the outside edge, which had the batsmen unsure of whether to play or not. Amid all this, when Ollie Pope saw a ball too straight, he failed to keep up with the movement and tickled one down to Pant down the leg side.
The duo had brought India back with 14 overs for 40 runs and three wickets, but it had come at the cost of long spells from each of them. While all this was happening, Ashwin was off the field, nursing a hip injury. Shami had been off colour. India needed someone to keep the intensity going. England's middle order was capable of a fast break. India went to Pandya. Now was his chance to earn his keep.
With the first ball he bowled, Pandya began to do so. Short of a length, wide on the crease, holding its line against the angle, taking the edge of Joe Root's bat for a low catch to second slip. KL Rahul claimed the catch, the umpires referred it upstairs with a soft signal of out. At the first replay, the crowd booed Rahul because it seemed the ball might have bounced, but this was not evidence enough to overturn the soft signal. There wasn't any more. Having marked a fresh guard, Root was asked to walk back. He did so shaking his head in dissent.
At 86 for 4, England began to play too many attacking shots. Instead of trying to wave over the period, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow began playing with hard hands. Both fell soon, Stokes to Shami and Bairstow to Pandya. With Chris Woakes, Pandya changed the plan and bounced him for a tickle through to Pant. The rhythm Pandya had hit was too good for Adil Rashid and Stuart Broad.
Some late hitting from Jos Buttler cut down the lead a little, but it was still too big for England to be able to attack in the second innings the way they have been doing all series long. India batted with swagger. A couple of edges went into gaps. Even before you blinked, the lead swelled to 200. Even Cheteshwar Pujara raced away to 22 off 18 before slowing down. Just to tease England further, the sun came out in the final session, telling them what could have been if they had shown the technique to last that middle session.