James Anderson tears through India to put England on the cusp of victory

Day 5 began with England facing the simpler of the two tasks, and visitors are now well on their way to winning

Vithushan Ehantharajah@Vitu_E
Tuesday 09 February 2021 07:24
James Anderson celebrates the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane
James Anderson celebrates the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane

A stunning spell of reverse swing from James Anderson ravaged India’s top order to put England just four wickets away from victory in the first Test. 

India are reeling on 140 for six at lunch thanks to some high-class bowling from England’s premier quick, taking three for six from his five overs this morning. Sandwiched between Jack Leach's the first incision with the dismissal of Cheteshwar Pujara and Dom Bess taking the last of the five in the session when he had Washington Sundar caught behind, was arguably Anderson's best sequence of the last five years.

He took the off stumps of Shubman Gill and Ajinkya Rahane for a walk in the same over – his first, a double-wicket maiden – then forced a misjudgement from Rishabh Pant, skewing to cover, reducing India to 110 for four. The 38-year-old now has 31 scalps in India (611 everywhere) and, even if only for the moment, has dipped his average here below 30. 

Day 5 began with England facing the simpler of the two tasks. The nine wickets needed more realistic than the minimum of 90 overs still to go in this match, and even more so than the 381 runs required for a world-record chase. 

In the last month alone India have batted out 131 overs at Sydney and chased own 328 in 97 overs at Brisbane. The 2-1 series victory of Australia offering blueprints for how best to go about things on Tuesday. 

For that to play out, the hosts needed Pujara to last for most of the course. He had stood valiantly in both four-innings knocks Down Under, with 77 off 205 and 56 off 211. So when Pujara (15) fell seven overs in,  squared up by Leach and caught by Ben Stokes at first slip, England knew they were onto something.

Virat Kohli joined Gill, who continued to pick up runs with sweetly timed shots. The 21-year-old looked at ease, almost waltzing to his third Test half-century from 81 balls. But that joy would be short-lived when, two deliveries later, his off stump was cartwheeling away behind him. 

With the ball still hard but starting to look like it might reverse, Joe Root turned to the master of such crafts for the 27th over with India 82 for three. Anderson broke through Gill’s defence, then did the same to Rahane right after having a strong LBW appeal turned down against the vice-captain. 

Pant’s attempts to play his natural game would be his undoing, as the left-hander chipped an away swinger from around the wicket to Root at short cover for 11. And when Dom Bess turned one past Washington Sundar (0) which kissed an edge through to Jos Buttler, England had all three first-innings half-centurions back in the dressing room. 

Kohli remains on 45 for 51, unfussed but desperate for any kind of support. He picked off Bess for three consecutive fours to take him to that tally as the off spinner lost his way with a succession of full tosses. Ravichandran Ashwin will return with him after the break, albeit after being checked over by the team physio after he was struck three times in the last over by some hostile bowling from Jofra Archer. 

The match is not won yet. The four more wickets to come will be tougher with a softer ball and a driven Kohli. But they are well on their way thanks to their greatest ever quick. 

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