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Underperforming England trail India by 70 despite Ollie Robinson’s maiden five-wicket haul

Underperforming England trail India by 70 despite Ollie Robinson’s maiden five-wicket haul
India finish on 278 with England 25/0 in second innings

India seized the advantage on Day Three of the first Test, making the most of an upturn in the forecasted weather and some spirited lower-order hitting, to leave England needing to find a level of performance that has so far escaped them if they are to have any hope of escaping Trent Bridge with anything other than a loss.

The day had started fascinatingly poised, India four wickets down and still trailing by 58 but with the standout batsman of the match so far, KL Rahul, and the dangerously free-spirited Rishabh Pant at the crease.

Given rain had been forecast to wash out most of the day, the fact that play started on time and in sunshine seemed like a Midlands miracle – and while a shower arrived to delay proceedings less than two full overs later, play eventually resumed for good just after midday.

When it did, Pant was his predictably carefree self, quickly bashing his way to 25, including a fortuitous six top-edged over the keeper’s head, before chipping an Ollie Robinson delivery straight to Jonny Bairstow at short cover to end an action-packed 20-ball knock.

There is a sense that Ravindra Jadeja has been curiously undervalued by India on previous tours to England, only making an appearance in the side with the series already lost, this time around the tourists had clearly learnt from their mistakes – the all rounder in the side from the start and on day three he immediately started showing his worth.

Combining with the classy Rahul, who picked up where he left off yesterday, Jadeja helped India to a slender lead of eight at the lunch break, the momentum well and truly wrestled back from England.

The hosts were let down badly by their fielding. Dan Lawrence made a meal of an excellent chance to run out Jadeja very early in his knock, Rahul was dropped in the slips off James Anderson for the second time in the innings and later England’s record wicket-taker even got in on the act himself, shelling Mohammed Shami running round attempting to take a high catch off the bowling of Sam Curran.

Having badly underperformed with the bat, this was not at all the spotless performance in the field they required to get back into things.

Jadeja was at his swashbuckling best, ensuring India’s lead continued to grow ever more dangerous, the highlight of his 86-ball 56 undoubtedly the six off Anderson – who earlier had passed Anil Kumble to go third on the all-time wicket-takers list – that was stylishly flicked over the backward square leg fence.

On paper India’s tail looked a little flimsy, but Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj were in no mood to roll over gently, the tourists’ last wicket stand of 33 ultimately proving larger than all but two partnerships that England managed in their entire first innings.

By the time Robinson eventually had Bumrah caught by Stuart Broad for 28, completing a well-deserved maiden five-wicket haul in the process, India had carved out a very healthy lead of 95 and a hugely dominant position in the match.

Given England managed to restrict Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, and Ajinkya Rahane to just nine runs, the fewest they’ve ever managed in the first innings of a Test, they will perhaps be disappointed not to have capitalised more, their all-pace attack looking a little one-dimensional at times – particularly with Broad a little under par.

The combination of India’s skilful bowling attack, England’s massively underperforming batting lineup and a deficit of nearly 100 runs would not have provided home fans with much optimism going into England’s second innings, but in two stints either side of the tea break they just about withstood everything India could throw at them, finishing on 25/0, toujours 70 runs behind and with a lot of work to do – and perhaps a healthy amount of rain required – if they are to have any chance of salvaging something from this Test.