The rain gods had some fun with James Anderson, but that was only after the 39-year-old toyed with India's hallowed middle-order. Proving to be India's nemesis in tough conditions yet again, the swing wizard ensured India did not run away with the game on day two of the first Test at Trent Bridge. KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma put on 97 runs for the opening wicket before India lost four wickets for 15 runs and lost a golden opportunity to take control of the opening Test of the five-match series.
Resuming the day at 21 for no loss, Rohit (36) and Rahul (57*) batted smartly in the first session and put India in a commanding position. However, Rohit perished at the stroke of lunch and that's when Anderson weaved his magic. England's leading wicket-taker got rid of Cheteshwar Pujara (4) and Kohli (naught) on consecutive deliveries before Ajinkya Rahane was run out for just five runs. The visitors collapsed from 97 for no loss to 112/4. In the process, Anderson also equalled Anil Kumble's record of 619 wickets in Test matches.
Anderson started his 14th over around 19:00 (IST) and had bowled only one delivery before the play had to be stopped for around an hour and 45 minutes due to bad light and rain. The game finally resumed around 20:45, Anderson bowled one ball and the rain once again intervened. There was no action for the next 40 minutes or so but the match resumed around 21:30. This time Anderson got a chance to bowl two deliveries before it started raining again and the umpires finally called off the day's play at 22:30. India are 125/4 in 46.4 overs, still trailing by 58 runs. Rahul and Rishabh Pant (7*) are at the crease and don't forget, Anderson is yet to complete his 14th over.
A GRITTY OPENING STAND
The first hour was always going to be difficult, especially under a cloud cover, and both Rohit and Rahul batted with a survival-oriented approach. Anderson and Ollie Robinson moved the ball both ways and even managed to beat both the batsmen on quite a few occasions but the two openers didn't let their guard down at all. The visitors didn't score a single run in the first three overs before Rohit broke the shackles with a pull shot off Robinson, who did trouble him a bit in his first spell. England started to get desperate and wasted yet another review on Rohit.
Considering Indian openers have the third-worst average (22.9) amongst teams who have played at least five away Tests since 2018, Rohit and Rahul ensured that the visiting side didn't lose an early wicket. India managed only 12 runs in the first 11 overs before Rahul slowly started playing his natural game. The England bowlers failed to hit the good length on a consistent basis and that made things slightly easier for Rohit and Rahul. The latter has struggled against left-arm pacers in away Tests in the past (averaging 11.8) and once again looked quite iffy against Sam Curran at the start.
It was pretty evident that Rahul had made some tweaks to his batting stance - lower backlift, bat over off stump, almost hidden behind his pad, and playing most of the deliveries close to his body - and all of these worked out decently for the opener. The right-hander from Karnataka was on 17 off 88 deliveries before the first drinks break but straightaway took control of the game by slamming four boundaries in the space of five overs. Rahul pounced on anything full and scored all his boundaries through the off-side, as India slammed 55 runs in the next 11 overs (24-35).
Rahul (39.2%) and Rohit (29%) also left quite a few deliveries in the first session and hardly played a reckless shot in the first 37 overs. However, just when everything was going smooth, Robinson finally bowled a short ball to Rohit in what was the last over before lunch. The 34-year-old from Mumbai couldn't stop himself from playing his trademark pull shot. That was the first proper bouncer bowled to Rohit in this innings and the right-hander ended up mistiming it to Curran at fine leg. Rohit once again failed to convert his start and this was just the opening England needed.
36, 30, 34, 7, 44, 52 and 26 - these are Rohit's scores in overseas Tests ever since he started to open the innings and you don't have to think too much to understand what's wrong with these numbers. In six of those seven innings, Rohit has managed to see off the new ball in challenging conditions but hasn't got that big score yet. However, India would take a 97-run opening stand in England on any given day, considering this was their second-highest opening partnership in this country since 2000. Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik added 147 in 2007 at this very venue.
THE EXPERIENCED TRIO FAILS ONCE AGAIN
Pujara (26.35), Kohli (24.64) and Rahane (28.16) average less than 30 in Test cricket since 2020. Unlike away tours in the past, they had a perfect platform to turn their fortunes around, but it took Anderson just two deliveries to break the back of India's middle-order. England skipper Joe Root straightaway gave the ball to Anderson in the second session and the 39-year-old genius responded in some style. Pujara never looked comfortable in the middle and even survived a close lbw call, only to end up falling to Anderson for the eighth time in this format. This one kept coming in from an angle and drew Pujara forward before shaping away very late. The 33-year-old got a clear edge and Jos Buttler made no mistake behind the stumps.
It was now time for the third season of 'Kohli v Anderson' but the first episode got over in the blink of an eye. Anderson had tormented Kohli when India toured England in 2014, dismissing him four times, but the batting maestro made an astonishing comeback in 2018. The right-hander amassed 593 runs at an average of 59.30 then and didn't get out to Anderson even once. The stage was set for the third showdown and it took Anderson only one ball to stamp his authority, once again. It was a classic 2014-series dismissal. A delivery pitched up just outside off, with a hint of away movement. To a ball that he could have left, Kohli stretched out to defend but ended up nicking it to Buttler.
Rahul completed his 12th Test fifty - his first after seven encounters - but India needed someone to stand firm with him and build a partnership. This was a perfect opportunity for Rahane to prove his worth once again but the Indian vice-captain was run out in the 44th over, courtesy of a direct hit from Jonny Bairstow from cover-point. India lost four wickets in no time and Anderson could have even dismissed Rahul if Dom Sibley wouldn't have dropped a simple catch at the second slip. Just when England were starting to take control of the game, rain arrived in Trent Bridge and played a spoilsport.