The sight of English batsmen traipsing off with sorrowful looks was replaced by Jimmy Anderson wheeling away in delight 24 hours later. His removal of Virat Kohli for a golden duck was the highlight of a stirring fightback from Joe Root’s side that was halted only by an afternoon of maddening stop-start rain.
In a career littered with gems Kohli’s dismissal was another for the Anderson collection. Feeding off the energy from a crowd that had been roused by his beauty to remove Cheteshwar Pujara after lunch, Anderson then glided into the crease and produced the perfect fourth-stump delivery. The ball nipped away off the green-tinged pitch and simply begged to be kissed.
Kohli, keen to start his series with the feeling of willow on leather, was obliging and after Jos Buttler safely pouched the catch and Anderson hared off in celebration, his team-mates chasing him across the outfield like school children in a playground, India’s captain stood for a moment in disbelief. The bowler who had caused him such torment in 2014, only to be overcome four years later, had done it again.
Despite the best efforts of Stuart Broad then to whip the home audience into an even greater frenzy for his old mucker’s hat-trick ball, it was not to be. Anderson plumped for an inswinger against the newly arrived Ajinkya Rahane, perhaps thinking back to his memorable dismissal of India’s vice-captain in Chennai this year, only for it to slide down leg and produce some optimistic appeals from the slips.
Still, Anderson’s totaliser had hit 619 Test wickets, level with Anil Kumble and behind only Shane Warne (708) and Mutiah Muralitharan (800) on the all-time list. And along with Jonny Bairstow’s lasered throw to run out Rahane moments later, the 39-year-old had changed the complexion of a day that at one stage threatened to see India pour salt into the wounds of England’s 183 all out on Wednesday.
As it was, the tourists closed on 125 for four with KL Rahul unbeaten on 57 from 151 balls of diligence and Rishabh Pant on seven. After the theatre generated by Anderson, things rather descended into farce as bad light and rain forced the players off the field at 2.30pm, with two further restarts aborted, to leave the poor ground staff exasperated. India probably did not mind much – for the second day running batting under lights had been a trial – while Root’s bowlers will at least return on day three re-energised.
England have long been fretting about what follows the end of the Anderson-Broad era and with news that Jofra Archer will miss the rest of the year, including the Ashes in Australia, there are few guarantees he will be able to take on the baton. However, the emergence of Ollie Robinson brings with it hope and, as much as Anderson will claim the headlines, the 27-year-old’s removal of Rohit Sharma on the stroke of lunch was pivotal.
Bar one flirtation with a run-out, Sharma and Rahul had looked assured up to that point, resuming on 21 for no loss and compiling India’s highest opening stand outside Asia in 11 years with a 97-run partnership. Both are technically correct right-handers in defence and both dispatch the ball handsomely when bowlers miss their mark. England’s batsmen, already taught a lesson by their New Zealand counterparts this summer, must have felt a bit sheepish watching the pair.
Root’s desperation, too, was palpable, the England captain burning a second review after a first the previous evening when Robinson thought he had removed Sharma lbw when padding up. But just as thoughts were turning to a gloomy lunch Robinson opted to test out Sharma with the short ball and the opener was unable to resist picking out long-leg on 36, prompting a reaction of disgust.
It was smart work from Robinson on his return from that controversial debut back in June and, having been preferred to Broad first thing, it was the latest demonstration of why England are so optimistic about his future. Anderson typically gave nothing away in the morning session – Broad and Sam Curran less so – but it was the tall, bounding figure of Robinson who offered the greatest threat on this surface.
Robinson believed he had a second after the restart, the newly arrived Pujara successfully reviewing an lbw decision when struck padding up. But in the following over the No 3 had to depart, Anderson removing him in classical fashion for four when a full delivery in the channel swung late and presented Buttler with a low catch behind the stumps.
Then came the moment of the truncated day, Kohli becoming the fifth batsman during this Nottingham Test removed for an ey-up-me-duck. With Bairstow, a constant source of energy at backward point, following that wicket with his run-out of Rahane – India’s vice-captain setting off from the non-striker’s end in crazed fashion – the tourists had lost four wickets in 38 balls. Kohli, now back on the dressing room balcony, was rightly fuming.
This should have been five in 48 only for Dom Sibley to betray perhaps a lack of confidence when putting down Rahul at second slip off Anderson. Thereafter the rain held sway and for the spectators it meant only 33.4 overs of cricket but no refund. They had savoured some memorable Test action, at least, while for Root’s embattled side a degree of atonement had been achieved.