43rd over: England 121-0 (Burns 53, Hameed 60) Kohli hands the ball to Ishant Sharma, a show of faith after he set the wrong tone by starting this innings with a nine-ball shemozzle. He goes awry now too, giving Burns a gentle loosener on the pads, which is tucked away for a single, and his first ball to Hameed is too wide. But by the fourth ball Ishant is in the groove, finding just enough movement to beat Hameed’s studious prod. Headingley is shrouded in clouds, which should have all the bowlers licking their lips.
The first email of the day has landed. “Good morning Tim,” says Kim Thonger. “I like your intro this morning.” Thanks! “I’ve been watching Test match cricket for five and a half decades. In that time it’s become ever more volatile. Despite a great day yesterday I have literally no idea which England team will take field this morning. I don’t think there’s an algorithm in existence that can predict the outcome of this game. I see an Indian win is priced by bookmakers at 22/1 and frankly I’m going to have a tenner at least on that because if India get three quick wickets England could implode like whatever it is that implodes most impressively. Nobody will convince me they have a clear path to victory or an unassailable lead. Their minds seem as fragile as a very thin sheet of ice on a shallow puddle. Very much looking forward to the day though, whoever takes the upper hand, it’s enthralling. PS your email address is wrong on the link by the way 🙂 it bounces.” Ah sorry, will fix. It should say firstname.lastname@example.org.
Preamble: daydream believer
On Monday Joe Root was talking about his boyhood dream. Yesterday he was living it: captaining England in the field as wickets fell like autumn leaves, then watching his team-mates cruise into the lead without requiring a single run from him. Today he must be tempted to take the day off, nip down to Sheffield to see the family, and leave the rest of the batsmen to it.
In reality, though, he will be expecting India to come roaring back. Virat Kohli had a shocker yesterday, making the wrong call at the toss, batting feebly, then failing to inspire his attack. This was a performance from the old Indian playbook, not the new one. But teams that have that bad a day usually show some fight at the next opportunity, as England did yesterday. And there is nothing wrong with India’s position that can’t be fixed by taking seven quick wickets.
For England, the challenge is to keep going, while fighting off any feelings of disbelief. Haseeb Hameed needs another 40 for a first Test century. Rory Burns may well be eyeing one too, and if either of them falls, the stage will be set for Dawid Malan. All Root has to do is tell him to treat the occasion like a T20, and he should be good for a no-fuss run-a-ball fifty.
The last time England were in this strong a position on the second morning of a Test, they went on to make 500 and win by an innings. But then, as every single one of their supporters knows, they always have a collapse in them. Do join me at 11am UK time to see which way they go.