Powered by Cheteshwar Pujara and guided by Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, India staged a strong fightback on Day 3 at Headingley, reaching 215/2 at stumps - still 139 behind England’s first innings score of 432. With two days to go, there’s still a slender hope of the most unlikeliest of results.
Pujara finds his groove
Unlike during his 206-ball 45 in the second innings at Lord’s and many of his incredibly patient knocks in the past, Pujara walked in with a new found intent on Friday, striking three boundaries in the first 13 balls he faced, and another three in next 25.
He was helped by a few misdirected half-volleys on the leg stump, from James Anderson especially, who tried to test him with inswingers. The standout stroke though, came on the second ball post tea, a firm backfoot punch through the point region off Craig Overton.
Post Rohit’s dismissal, India’s one-drop did what he knows best - wearing down the opposition bowlers from his end. A rare, full-blooded pull - the ninth of his 15 boundaries - brought up his first fifty in 14 innings.
The flow to the innings was maintained thereafter, with the right-hander guiding himself to an unbeaten 91 at stumps nine away from his 19th Test hundred, which will be his first since January 2019.
Kohli stands tall
After two single digit scores and as many busted starts, Virat Kohli finally showed signs of returning to his fluent best, rising to the challenge when the opportunity presented itself with India well behind.
Walking in to bat at the fall of Rohit’s wicket, Kohli was unsurprisingly up against James Anderson, his nemesis in Test cricket, with Ollie Robinson going strong from the other end. There was, however, more assurance during his stay than it was anytime earlier in the series, with well-judged leaves and solid defensive play topped with flourishing cover-drives.
The wristy flicks and dominant pulls were back too, as the India skipper put on an unbeaten 99 with Pujara for the third wicket, reducing India’s deficit to 139 at stumps.
With a controlled display in the final session of play, Kohli is quietly progressing towards that elusive international hundred, one which has evaded him for as many as 50 innings.
The mystics of Headingley - another miracle coming?
Headingley has been the home to some of cricket’s most incredible feats, be it individual brilliances, stunning heists or remarkable passages. From Don Bradman’s monumental triple in a day in 1930, to Botham's 1981 and Stokes' 2019, from Graham Gooch's brilliance in 1991, to Shai Hope’s twin hundreds in West Indies’ epic 2017 win - the home of Yorkshire cricket has seen it all.
India’s last outing at the venue, the third of four Tests in 2002, saw the big three - Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and the then skipper Sourav Ganguly register monumental hundreds to set up a historic innings win.
19 years later, India are in search of a similar effort from the successors, this time in an incredibly tough game situation in the third innings, after they were bundled out for a paltry 78 two days ago. Their strong fightback on Day 3 has somewhat revived hopes, and the venue’s extraordinary history continues to keep us on our toes.