As the two sides left Trent Bridge at the end of a lively third day bookended by rain, India were the happier. The tourists had scrapped hard with the bat, chiselling out a 95- run first-innings lead, and though England closed on 25 for no loss it is the hosts who are under the greatest amount of pressure heading into the fourth morning.
England will draw heart, at least, from Dom Sibley and Rory Burns surviving 11.1 overs before the heavens once again opened over Nottingham and while their 183 all out on day one gave India an early foothold in the series, this 40-minute passage of play suggested it need not necessarily result in a 1-0 deficit going into next week’s second Test at Lord’s.
It may well be that this was a significant day for Joe Root’s team in the long run too. Ollie Robinson secured a maiden five-wicket haul that not only underlined why his future is thought to be a bright one, but also suggested that the events that marred his debut at the home of cricket in June – the emergence of offensive social media posts from his past – have not wrecked a career in its infancy.
Robinson admittedly mopped up the tail to finish with figures of five for 85 as England bowled India out for 285 , but along with Jimmy Anderson, who finished with four for 54, he was a go-to bowler for Root throughout. The support cast of Stuart Broad and Sam Curran went wicketless by contrast and on the six-year anniversary of the former’s eight for 15 against Australia on this ground, some will wonder if this was a baton being passed.
Such thoughts can wait for now and in the short-term it is India who are in charge. Their lead was built on KL Rahul’s 84 from opener, a lively 56 from Ravindra Jadeja that saw his bat-twirling celebration come out upon reaching his half-century, and Jasprit Bumrah thrashing only a second Test score in double-figures with 28 from No 10. In contrast to India’s 4-1 defeat in 2018, their last three wickets returned 73 precious runs.
There was a degree of niggle out in the middle too and at one stage, as Anderson and Mohammed Siraj brushed shoulders during a change of ends, the umpires stepped in for a quiet word. Usually such tension grows over the course of the series, but then this is Trent Bridge, scene of the infamous Anderson-Jadeja spat back in 2011.
Having pegged back India to 125 for four on the second day, England started to fray in the field on the third. Three run out chances were squandered – Jadeja on four, when Dan Lawrence had plenty of time, proved most costly – while two grassed catches made it three for the innings after Sibley handed Rahul a life on 52 the previous day.
Drops are becoming a troubling feature for England, with this the fifth innings in 2021 where they have put down at least three. Still, it contributed to a helter-skelter day for the crowd in Nottingham, who had waited patiently after the first eight balls – enough time for Rishabh Pant to thrash Anderson for four – were followed by an hour of rain.
India then dominated until lunch, progressing to an eight-run lead and only losing Pant along the way when, after flashing a four past gully and a top-edging a six, he plopped a catch to short-cover on 25 to give Robinson his second. Root also burned his final review during this opening session, Broad convinced he had Rahul caught behind on 70 and the captain swiftly sending it upstairs before Jos Buttler, who knew best, could interject.
This was a frustrating day for Broad, who lost his run up a couple of times due to the strong cross-winds, and it may be that the pecking order is starting to shift a touch. Root once again began the afternoon session with Anderson and Robinson but was soon apologising to the former when putting down Rahul on 77 at slip after the restart.
Anderson, who had turned the second day with the removals of Chesteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, ensured it was not costly at least when Rahul’s diligent work was finally ended in his next over caught behind. This 620th Test victim meant Anderson moving to third outright in the all-time charts, with Shardul Thakur becoming No 621 soon after.
By this stage India were 205 for seven and only 22 runs ahead but the dangerous Jadeja was well set on 32, his earlier punched drives making way for some more ambitious swordsmanship, perhaps mindful his side’s tail is rarely up to much. Indeed one six picked up and flicked off Anderson prompted a change of ball, the previous one sailing somewhere towards the Larwood and Voce pub, and his 50 came with a sumptuous guided cut for four.
Eventually Jadeja got carried away, attempting to launch Robinson over the Radcliffe Road End and into the River Trent but instead picking out Broad at mid-off, and with the lead sitting at 49 English minds were turning to their second innings.
Instead Mohammad Shami, Bumrah all enjoyed their license to swing in a rather slapstick passage of play that reaped 46 runs and saw the ball spent plenty of time in the air, yet drop between fielders when it did. Robinson eventually snuffed them out, bowling Shami and seeing Bumrah’s cameo end when a top edge flew to long leg.
It was a drop from Broad that cost Robinson his maiden five-wicket haul during that horribly overshadowed debut at Lord’s back in June, but here the 35-year-old delivered for his teammate when holding a fine swirling effort. Robinson stood there for a moment, arms aloft, and sense already is that this won’t be the last time he enjoys the sensation.