Stumps England 391 (Root 180*, Bairstow 57, Siraj 4-94, Ishant 3-69) lead India 364 (Rahul 129, Anderson 5-62) by 27 runs
Joe Root made his fourth century at Lord’s, and stretched it past 150 like he had the first three times, as a near-perfect display on Day 3 helped England take a slender lead against India. He was left stranded on 180 with England being bowled out off the last ball of the day. The 27-run lead capped off a gradual comeback from England in the match, which had begun by first bowling India out early on Day 2 and then battling through to stumps on a difficult evening. Exactly two days and two innings now remain for the teams to force a result.
Almost as if it were a reward for their work on Friday evening, England came out to the best batting conditions of the match so far on Saturday – bright sunshine and a flat pitch that they put to good use, starting with overnight batters Root and Jonny Bairstow. The pair put up their third century stand of the year, but this one was of a different flavour, with Bairstow playing a more prominent role. His most prominent role in two years, in fact, as England’s No. 5 brought up his first Test fifty since 2019.
Bairstow took the lead early in the day, finding his groove especially on either side of the 50-over mark. England were striking at more than four an over at that stage and Bairstow’s confident driving in the V started it all off. He then brought up boundaries through point and gully and his favoured square leg region and pretty soon India were already thinking conservatively.
That meant only two fielders in the cordon and a sweeper point fielder through most of the first session, alongside the early introduction of Ravindra Jadeja, India’s go-to bowler for a defensive strategy. Every bit of that helped Root, who has been something of a one-man army for England lately. He ambled along, solid as ever, in what would turn out to be a flawless innings offering no clear chances to India.
For the most part, it was a typically delicate sort of innings from Root, punctuated with nudges and glances, and a handful of flicks through square leg. Not until the very end of the day did he attempt any overly aggressive strokes; when he did, they came off: a reverse ramp over the cordon, and a slog sweep to deep square’s left off consecutive deliveries from Mohammed Siraj with England nine down. In the first two sessions, England scored at nearly 3.5 an over, and despite ending up 18 fours in a score of 180, Root finished the innings with England’s best strike rate.
He continued being the one to hold England together as well, first with the 121-run stand alongside Bairstow, and then by adding 54 and 58 with Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali respectively. Those phases of play blunted any chance for India to turn the game around with the second new ball and ultimately helped England close in on the lead.
For India, it was Siraj who finished highest wicket-taker, but it was Jasprit Bumrah who had looked their best option when the day began. Bumrah would end up wicketless, but was the first to make Bairstow rethink his game. Bumrah had him hurriedly walking across the stumps, trying to protect both his stumps and his outside edge, as the scoring rate dropped down heading to lunch.
Then, India brought out a short-ball strategy against which Root was comfortable enough, but not Bairstow. After a few misses on the pull, he ended up going too early at a Siraj bouncer from around the wicket, offering a simple catch to Virat Kohli at first slip. With eight balls to go before the second new ball and England 135 behind, it was India’s biggest chance to pry the innings open. But that wouldn’t materialise as they battled both challenging conditions as well as their own indiscipline – in general, they erred too straight, or too short.
There was none of the ingenuity that they showed on Friday evening, apart from going back to the short-balls from time to time, as the strategy became plainly about making sure England didn’t run away with the game. Eventually, that did pay off. Ishant Sharma, who had bowled a trademark nip-backer to hit the top of Buttler’s off stump, managed to get Ali and Sam Curran off consecutive deliveries with England only 23 shy of the lead. The two left-handers fell identically, fencing at away-going deliveries in the corridor, and once again the prospects of a collapse opened in this Test.
But once again, there was a delay – if not downright resistance – because of the lower order. Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, and James Anderson all survived about half-an-hour each for a combined 11 off 61 balls as their captain endeavoured to give them more to bowl at. India’s extras helped – 33 in total, 17 no-balls – and it all added up to 50 runs for the last three wickets before Anderson, who was struck multiple times on the body through a nine-ball Bumrah over, was bowled off the last ball of the day.
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo