London: Paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar scalped four wickets as India hit back with two late strikes to wrest the initiative in the second cricket Test against England, despite Gary Ballance`s gutsy century here on Friday.
Kumar exploited the seaming conditions to return figures of 4/46 and leave England struggling at 219 for six at close of play on an absorbing second day, still trailing by 76 runs.
Ballance struck his second century in four matches to help rescue England on a Lord`s wicket that appeared to have eased out a little.
He scored 110 runs (203 balls, 15 fours) to help his lift his side from 113/4. For India, Kumar was the stand-out bowler and delivered 23 overs.
Matt Prior (2) and Liam Plunkett (4) were at the crease at stumps, while Ravindra Jadeja (1-41) and Murali Vijay (1-12) were the other wicket-takers. Ishant Sharma (0-32) and Mohammad Shami (0-33) bowled well on a hot and humid day, but weren`t rewarded for their efforts.
India had heaped up pressure on England and reduced them to 125/4 at tea, from where Ballance (51 batting) and Moeen Ali (32 runs, 106 balls, 4 fours) began in the last session. They put on 98 runs for the fifth wicket and tested the patience of the Indian bowlers.
To their credit, the visitors didn`t lose their focus and continued to bowl probing line even as the green-top pitch eased out. The medium pacers held tight lines and didn`t allow easy runs. With the older ball getting soft, skipper MS Dhoni cleverly used Jadeja as well as Vijay.
The batsmen too utilised the conditions well, bringing up their 50-run partnership in the 65th over of the innings. Ballance then went on to get a well-deserved second Test hundred at Lord`s, off 186 balls hitting 14 fours, reaching the mark in the 77th over.
His first century at this ground came against Sri Lanka just three matches prior. He fully utilised the life given to him by Dhoni who let go an edge induced by Stuart Binny (0-45) in the 40th over. Ballance had been on 32 at that time.
With two overs to go for the new ball, Ali finally got out to a lazy shot off Vijay, trapped LBW giving the opening batsman his maiden Test wicket. Plunkett was sent in as night-watchman but the ploy failed when Ballance was dismissed by Kumar in the 83rd over, caught behind by Dhoni who didn`t make a mistake this time.
The second session had begun well for India as Kumar had broken Ballance's lunch-stand with Ian Bell (16 runs, 56 balls, 2 fours). They had added 20 runs in the morning and could only score 19 more before a short delivery surprised Bell and the ball kissed his gloves on its way to Jadeja at third slip.
His dismissal brought first-Test centurion Joe Root to the crease and India were obviously desperate to see his back. Sharma and Shami didn't get as much movement as Kumar. Finally Jadeja got the breakthrough they needed. Root (13 runs, 50 balls) was adjudged LBW, albeit a big inside-edge which Australian umpire Bruce Oxenford failed to notice.
In the morning session, Kumar removed Alastair Cook (10) first, caught behind by a diving Dhoni, as the English skipper's horrible run with the bat continued. It was brilliant bowling from the Indian medium pacer who set up Cook beautifully in the previous over and then snapped him up with a huge out-swinger off the first ball of the 11th over.
He then struck a second blow four overs later with opener Sam Robson (17) playing a loose stroke outside off-stump and was safely pouched by Dhoni as well. It was quite disappointing for the batsman for he failed to make good on a life given by Ajinkya Rahane at third slip, when the first-innings' centurion dropped him off Shami in the 10th over. Robson was batting on 8 at that time and could only add 9 to his tally.
Earlier, Sharma (12*) and Shami (19) added just five runs to the overnight score of 290/9 in ten balls. The innings ended when the latter was caught at first slip by Cook off Ben Stokes (2-40) in the second over of the day and the 92nd of the innings. This was Cook's 100th catch in Test cricket.
On day one, Rahane's second Test ton had rescued India from a collapse after they were reduced to 145/7 at one stage.
He scored 103 runs on a green-top wicket and added 90 runs for the eighth wicket with Bhuvneshwar Kumar (36) to guide his team to safety.
Cheteshwar Pujara (28), Virat Kohli (25) and Murali Vijay (24) were the only other Indian batsmen to cross the 20-run mark, after England had won the toss and opted to bowl first.
James Anderson, playing under allegations of physical abuse against Jadeja, took 4-60 while Stuart Broad returned 2-79.
Liam Plunkett (1-51) and Moeen Ali (1-38) were the other bowlers used.
Both sides were unchanged from the first Test in Nottingham that ended in a draw.