Jonny Bairstow century heroics for England not enough to keep India at bay
Another outstanding century from Jonny Bairstow, his third in as many Tests and fifth this year, was not enough to prevent India racking up a sizeable lead on day three of the series decider against England.
After scoring fine hundreds in Sydney and Antigua, Bairstow has stepped things up a notch this summer, following back-to-back tons against New Zealand with another here at Edgbaston.
He made 106 in typically rambunctious style, with 14 boundaries and two sixes as he added another superb knock to his career-best streak.
But with Sam Billings the next highest scorer on 36, England were dismissed 132 behind for 284. James Anderson removed Shubman Gill in the first over of the reply, but by tea India had moved to 37 for one.
England were trailing by exactly 200 more at the start of play, resuming on 84 for five with Bairstow and Ben Stokes eager to launch a counter-attack. That was virtually impossible in the opening stages, with Jasprit Bumrah starting well and Mohammed Shami producing a brilliant but luckless spell from the Pavilion End.
He beat Bairstow on both edges as he extracted lavish seam movement, and even saw one ball nip back and over the stumps. Bairstow was barely hanging in until a verbal exchange with the combative Virat Kohli inspired him to turn things up.
Steeled by the perceived provocation he threw himself into a couple of meaty drives and then went aerial, aiming two dismissive blows down the ground. Stokes wanted to join in but was unable to match his partner’s timing.
On 18 he skied a leading edge high to Shami high, giving Shardul Thakur plenty of time to settle and no excuse for the fumble that followed. Bairstow rubbed salt into the seamer’s wounds by slamming the next two balls for four, one flicked over square leg and the next blasted straight and true.
But Stokes’ time was running out, though, and he was dropped again on 25. He punched Thakur straight to Bumrah at mid-off, but the skipper juggled it to the floor in apparent slow motion. Stokes failed to heed the warning, going for the same shot again only for Bumrah to make full amends with a brilliant catch diving to his left.
Stokes reacted by throwing his head back and laughing, but with his side 149 for six, India’s smiles were even wider. Bairstow is making a habit of turning around sticky situations, though, and he continued to make the running with Billings for support.
Mohammed Siraj and Thakur did not have the means to keep him quiet, with Bairstow ruthless off his pads and punishing anything short. The boundary count continued to rise as he flicked to square leg, threaded to third man and twice hammered pulls for six.
He was on course for three figures before lunch, but was nine runs short when rain robbed him of 15 minutes. The extended break did not alter his focus one bit, with the Thakur’s first ball of the delayed afternoon session stroked effortlessly wide of mid-on for four more.
A misfield on the ropes saw him to his 11th Test century and he set off on a familiar celebration, sprinting off the square and pointing his bat to all four corners. It took the return of Shami to cut his fun short, with Bairstow trying to hit the cover off the first ball of a new spell and edging to slip.
That left Billings in charge of the tail and he showed glimpses of his range when he scooped Siraj over his shoulder for four. But Siraj hoovered up the last three wickets, including Billings via a drag on and Matthew Potts to a disputed catch.
India’s lead of 132 was a hefty one but it looked a little thinner when Anderson removed Gill with the third ball of the innings – a teasing outswinger that took the edge and carried through to Zak Crawley.
Hanuma Vihari was in at three and had a couple of tricky moments, edging an inch or in front of Crawley, but he and Cheteshwar Pujara successfully saw out the session.
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