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2nd Test, Lord's, August 12 - 16, 2021, India tour of England
364 & 298/8d
(T:272) 391 & 120

India won by 151 runs

Player Of The Match

KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma make it comfortably India's day at Lord's

James Anderson strikes twice, but visitors in position of strength after being asked to bat

Varun Shetty
Varun Shetty
India 276 for 3 (Rahul 127*, Rohit 83, Anderson 2-52) vs England
Having been asked to bat when they wanted to bowl, and having negotiated rainy and overcast conditions, India finished day one at Lord's looking healthy in all respects - on score, on scoring rate, and on wickets in hand. Much of that was down to their unbeaten centurion KL Rahul, who walked off in bright sunshine, having played a part in two century stands.
That wickets-in-hand part was particularly significant after they decided to replace the injured Shardul Thakur with Ishant Sharma, effectively cutting their batting down to six specialists alongside Ravindra Jadeja. It was a bold move on many fronts, especially if they believed the dank conditions in the morning were more suited to their bowlers; it was either a show of faith or calculated pressure heaped on the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, who have struggled for form lately.
Whatever it was, it needed the openers to click, and click they did. Rahul and Rohit Sharma put on India's first century partnership outside Asia for the opening wicket since 2010 - 126, to set the tone on what turned out to be a glorious day for batting.
For the duration of that stand, Rohit was the star. As he has been on India's last few tours, Rohit was happy to leave and defend in the opening hour. When Sam Curran came on in the ninth over, he was briefly troubled by a front-foot plant across off stump to incoming deliveries. But he sorted that out in quick time - in a matter of minutes, really - and then put pressure on Curran with a giant 15th over that went for four boundaries. The best of these was a scrumptious push through point after jumping down the track to counter swing, and there was also a gentle flick to reinforce that the front-foot plant was gone. This helped get his batting flowing freely earlier than it has in recent innings, and contributed to him breaking a streak of scores in the thirties on this tour, World Test Championship final included. With all that out of the way, he brought up fifty, scored at close to four an over, and even showed a classic sign that he was on track for a big one: a hook that cleared fine leg.
Rahul looked assured at the other end, with his combination of soft hands and patience carrying on from the Nottingham Test. He ground it out while Rohit kept the scoring rate healthy, only opening up once he had lost his opening partner. In trademark style, this acceleration involved jumping down to England's spin option Moeen Ali and launching him back over his head, before bringing out a variety of punches - front and back foot - square on the off side. The show only got better later in the day, with England's tiring bowlers seeing a full stride from him as he leant into the kind of picturesque cover drives that he had avoided early on in a bid to play the ball as late as possible.
For about an hour to begin the day, England seemed to have hit their straps with James Anderson and Ollie Robinson sharing the new ball. But it soon turned out that Anderson was both their best attacking as well as defensive bowler. With Curran rattled early and Mark Wood - who came in for the injured Stuart Broad - lacking consistency in the early parts of his spell, it was shaping up to be a long day in the field for England.
Anderson was a late pick for England, given his quad troubles, and in the time between the end of his second spell and the start of his third - the 18th and 42nd overs respectively - it was easy going for Rohit. When Anderson did come back, Rohit was once again forced to think about his technique and after a brief period of scratching around, he was castled off one that nipped back to take the pad and then off stump. With 83, Rohit had made his highest Test score overseas.
Into that Anderson spell walked a nervy Pujara, first surviving an lbw shout, then an edge through the cordon, before eventually poking one to Bairstow in the cordon. Rahul took the bulk of the strike against Anderson in the lead up to tea, with Kohli at the other end. When they came back, Kohli was fiddly too, stepping a long way across his stumps for the first twenty-or-so minutes of his innings, before settling into a more usual rhythm.
Once again, after Anderson's spell, India were comfortable. Kohli started reaching out to play his big cover drives and connected with a few, and Rahul grew more and more assured as he approached his first Test century since The Oval in 2018. He brought that up with a confident cut to the backward-point fence, and the pair added 117 for the third wicket at 3.37.
It was Robinson who eventually dismissed Kohli, with the second new ball, with just over five overs left in the day, Root taking the catch at first slip and then trying to drum up some noise from the Lord's crowd. He might have been wondering, though, if the day would have gone differently had he elected to bat.

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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