|Inde 276-3: Rahul 127*, Rohit 83, Kohli 42|
|England: Still to beat|
England endured a demoralizing first day of the second test as a century of KL Rahul drove India to a massive total after being asked to strike first.
Rahul played elegantly for 127 not eliminated, growing in stature after his supporting role in a 126 first stand with Rohit Sharma, who made a stunning 83 at Lord’s.
With Indian captain Virat Kohli adding 42 in a 117 third-wicket partnership with Rahul, India moved up to 276-3 and in a prime position to take full control of the game.
James Anderson – past fit to play – produced two excellent deliveries to take out Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara, while Ollie Robinson provided a late boost with Kohli’s wicket.
However, the home side were collectively poor with the ball and as the clouds gave way to the evening sun the stick seemed more and more comfortable on real pitch.
England was aided by the rain in the fired first Test at the Trent Bridge. Weather in London is expected to be dry for the weekend, so the hosts will need their drummers – including Haseeb Hameed, recalled for Zak Crawley – to get them out of it.
Was England right to play first?
It was hard to disagree with England captain Joe Root when he chose to play first on a cool, gray and damp morning. Kohli said he would have done the same.
However, while it’s fair to say that England haven’t received the amount of help they might have expected, they have rarely found the right area, alternating between too wide and too straight.
Credit goes to Rohit and Rahul, who went through what could have been a rough time with good judgment, only playing when absolutely necessary.
After Stuart Broad was excluded for the series with a calf injury, Anderson overcame a quad issue to produce his double strike as he approached tea.
By then, however, India had built a solid base and it would seem even more worrying for England if Robinson hadn’t struck.
Still, India will look to put pressure on England by striking for most of Friday.
Rahul only plays in this series after injuries to Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal, but started with scores of 84 and 26 at Trent Bridge and followed up with his first Test 100 in nearly three years.
He started out as a support for Rohit, who took four fours in a Sam Curran and got the better of a thrilling duel with fast Mark Wood.
Rahul didn’t score his first limit – a six in a row against Moeen Ali – until the 108th ball he faced, shortly before Rohit fell for his best test score outside India.
Pujara’s struggles continued – his highest score in his last 10 test innings is 21 – but Rahul has gradually rolled out his trademark records through the offside.
Kohli had yet to pass 25 in four test innings at Lord’s and had to pass an exam by Curran and almost played against Moeen.
Robinson eventually got him to play away from his body, Root grabbing the edge on the first slide.
England’s Day of Punishment
Given their recent weakness at bat, the last thing England needed was such a flat display with the ball.
Broad miss a home test for only the third time since 2010. Without him England have been toothless for extended periods.
Robinson’s usual precision gave him up, Curran started playing both sides of the wicket, Wood – Broad’s replacement – hit 96 mph but was expensive, while the recalled Moeen struggled to make an impact.
As always, it was left to Anderson, who first pinched one in the Lord’s slope to throw Rohit, then got one to go the other way so that the Pujara was held on the third slide.
It was the start of an improvement for England. Curran cast a test spell around the wicket, and Robinson’s poll with the second new ball was rewarded with Kohli’s wicket.
There was still time for Root to lose a review on new man Ajinkya Rahane, possibly due to England’s frustrating day.
Rahul’s “masterclass” – what they said
English fashion designer Ollie Robinson on BBC Sport: “Everyone saw how green the pitch was this morning and everyone here thought ‘win the pitch and the bowl’. We have worked hard.
“Virat is probably my biggest wicket yet so I was happy with it. If I could do five or six earlier, they’ve got a pretty long tail, and we’d still be in the game. “
Former England captain Michael Vaughan on BBC Test Match Special: “It was KL Rahul’s perfection. It was a masterclass on how to open the baton in England. It was a pleasure to watch – a craftsman at work.
“It’s a big day for England tomorrow. They have to get the wickets, and then it comes to the stick, which was the downfall of last year. “
Jonathan Agnew, BBC Cricket Correspondent: “I don’t think anyone can seriously criticize Joe Root’s decision to go bowling.
“But there didn’t seem to be a big plan for English bowling today. India has built a fantastic platform. “
Former English drummer Mark Ramprakash: “It has been a tiring day for England. There will be tired bodies and minds. But the next two batsmen are lefties playing offensive style, and then there are the four crimps.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel for England, but they will have to fight well and for a long time. “