Wood fires England to set second Test up for thrilling finish

By Sports Desk August 15, 2021

Mark Wood led the attack as England boosted their hopes of victory in the second Test as India were reduced to 181-6 by the end of an absorbing fourth day at Lord's.

Holding a slender first-innings lead of 27, England quickly put their opponents under pressure with three early wickets before Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane held up the hosts.

The duo put on a 100-run stand to help ease concerns for India, only for the tourists to then lose three wickets for 20 runs before the close, leaving the game wonderfully poised.

KL Rahul had scored a century on day one but fell for just five second time around, caught behind off the impressive Wood (3-40). Rohit Sharma erased the deficit with two fours and a six, though fell to the same bowler – caught in the deep taking on the short ball – before his side had gone ahead.

However, it was Sam Curran who struck the crucial blow, claiming his first wicket of the series as Virat Kohli was caught by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler after prodding tamely at a delivery outside off stump.

Kohli's departure for 20 left India teetering at 55-3 just prior to lunch, yet England's attack could not make further inroads in the afternoon session.

However, Pujara was eventually dismissed for a battling 45 by a brute of a delivery from Wood, the ball rising off a length to take the edge and be caught by Joe Root at second slip.

Ajinkya Rahane did reach his half-century but became one of two late wickets for off-spinner Moeen Ali, a thin edge ending his knock at 61. Ravindra Jadeja did not last too long, beaten by one that turned to be bowled for three.

Rishabh Pant survived a late trial by spin in fading light to finish on 20 not out, with his continued presence in the middle – and just the tail for company – adding further intrigue ahead of Monday's play.

Digging in

Pujara has had a lean time of it of late, this his highest score since making 73 against the same opponents in Chennai back in February. Indeed, since the start of 2020, he has averaged just 25.95 with no century since the tour of Australia over two years ago.

It took him 35 balls and 51 minutes to get off the mark on Sunday, a long-awaited single greeted by ironic cheers from the crowd and a wry smile from Pujara himself.

Wood makes things happen

England let slip a chance to dismiss Rahane on 31, Jonny Bairstow unable to hang on to a tough diving chance off Ali, but the late clatter of wickets could be crucial in the final reckoning.

Wood started the mini-collapse by ending Pujara's stubborn resistance, fine reward for the pace bowler's perseverance on a sluggish surface. Worryingly, though, he was not on the field at the finish after hurting his shoulder diving to stop a boundary.

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