Mark Wood's heroics for England leave thrilling Lord's Test in the balance

Second Test poised for classic finish as India lead by 154 runs with four wickets in hand

No matter how many new formats are invented, no matter how many bells and whistles are affixed, or organised fun is forced on supporters, cricket will always find a way to frustrate.

Bad light curtailed another compelling day of one of the most riveting Test matches in recent memory. Spinners bowling, floodlights on, a vibrant crowd roaring support, and one of the most luminous players in the game at the batting crease while the home side pressed for wickets at the Home of Cricket. Really.

Who wants to have to switch over to The Hundred when a Test match is as deliciously poised as this one?

India, with four wickets left, and just the bowlers to come, have a 154-run lead and Rishabh Pant simmering, threating to do Rishabh Pant things. It is the best cricket has to offer.

Yet they all trudged off before the end, after the home side had wanted to bring back their fast bowlers with the light insufficiently good to continue.

Anyway. At least it leaves a day five that is filled with possibilities. The forecast is for a cloudy but dry Monday in St John’s Wood, so the Lord’s Test should have a classic climax.

Day four was full on from even before the start. Given the way the previous day had ended, it might have been expected that James Anderson would be the one who emerged breathing fire for England.

The leader of England’s attack had traded verbals with Jasprit Bumrah as the teams walked off at stumps on day three, having been peppered with bouncers in an over also littered with no balls.

Even though Anderson scarcely threatened in the morning session, England certainly did, in the form of Mark Wood.

England’s fastest bowler has a curiously mediocre record in home conditions, but he showed just what he could do in a captivating opening session.

First, he had KL Rahul – a centurion in the first innings for India – caught behind by Jos Buttler.

Next, he accounted for Rahul’s opening partner Rohit Sharma, straight after being hit for six by the same player.

Rohit pulled Wood way back into the stand. Wood went again with a bouncer, and this time the 'Hitman' fired his shot straight to Moeen Ali at deep backward square leg.

England were right on top when Sam Curran subsequently accounted for Virat Kohli for 20, with India on 55-3, and a slender lead of 28.

All of which meant the two batsmen most under pressure in the India line up were pitted together with a match to save.

Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane may be light on runs and form. What they are not short of, though, is character and stickability. The pair shared an alliance worth exactly a hundred in a little under 50 overs.

It was Pujara who was prised from the wicket first, again by Wood. He had faced 206 for his 45 runs, before a Wood rocket reared from just short of a length, caught the edge of his bat, and looped to Joe Root at slip.

Although the vital partnership had ended, it was met with the sort of roar of approval that would not have been out of place at the Feroz Shah Kotla for an IPL match in Delhi.

There was good reason. It brought Pant to the crease. Shortly before, he had been lying down in the away team dressing room, seemingly without a care in the world.

And his entrance altered the ambience in the middle, too, with England seemingly wary of his attacking prowess straight from the off.

The hosts had joy at the other end, though, each time via the off-spin of Moeen Ali, who is enjoying an uplifting comeback Test. First he had Rahane caught at the wicket for 61.

Then he bowled Ravindra Jadeja with a perfect off break. The players sloped off not long after, with India 181-6, and the stage set.

Updated: August 15th 2021, 5:56 PM
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