India dig in after Plunkett heroics

England toiled during the afternoon

England toiled during the afternoon

First published in National Sport News © by

England made precious little progress with the ball after Liam Plunkett's maiden Test fifty helped them eke out a narrow lead in an intriguingly-poised battle against India at Lord's.

Plunkett's 75-ball half-century, after his promotion to number seven as nightwatchman the previous evening, was a telling contribution on a cloudy third morning of the second Investec Test.

It helped England to 319 all out, and an overall advantage of 24 - but by tea, India had re-established themselves on a second-innings 84 for one.

Plunkett (55no) and Matt Prior defied the best overhead bowling conditions of the match, completing a very handy 51-run stand before Bhuvneshwar Kumar (six for 82) again had his say.

The seventh-wicket pair were not always convincing, but cashed in regular boundaries - eight, in fact, until Prior mistimed an attempted pull at Mohammed Shami and was very well-caught by Shikhar Dhawan running back from slip to hold a steepler.

Plunkett's awareness and footwork had saved him, on 30, when an inside-edge on to pad off Shami was headed directly back towards middle stump before he volleyed it away.

Ben Stokes continued his unenviable sequence of three successive ducks for England, and four runs in his last five international innings, bowled through the gate attempting to drive Kumar.

Stuart Broad then counted four between gully and and point first ball but edged his second delivery to Dhawan at slip as Kumar took his fifth and sixth wickets in the same over.

The nagging seamer's instant follow-up was a perfect way to celebrate his place on the Lord's honours board, but he got no change out of number 11 James Anderson.

Doubtless still on a high from his world-record batting heroics and career-best at Trent Bridge, Anderson had the confidence to smack his second ball past cover for four to end an especially eventful over.

He stuck around to make 19 of the 39 he and Plunkett added for the last wicket this time, before gloving an attempted reverse-sweep at Ravindra Jadeja straight into the hands of slip.

India's openers then came through unscathed for 15 minutes before lunch, and only Dhawan succumbed in the afternoon - cutting Stokes fiercely to point where Joe Root took an outstanding catch, diving two-handed to his left.

Dhawan's opening partner Murali Vijay was notably unhurried, and troubled little either, as Alastair Cook ran through his bowling options.

England's seamers found their range marginally better than in the first innings, but rewards were sure to be harder-earned on a pitch which has lost its dramatic shade of green and is offering less sideways movement.

Vijay needed 57 deliveries before he hit his first boundary, a leg-glance off Broad, and Cheteshwar Pujara was characteristically studied too.

The slow grind was a frustrating one for England, though.

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