By Callum Dent
Liam Plunkett revealed a change in tactics helped him drag England back into the second Investec Test against India on day three at Lord’s.
The paceman, guilty of bowling slightly too short on a green pitch in the first innings, reaped the rewards for addressing his lengths second time around.
Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara were moving along nicely, extending their side’s lead to 94, until Plunkett was thrown the ball by skipper Alastair Cook late afternoon.
The 29-year-old, operating from the Nursery End, broke Vijay and Pujara’s second-wicket stand of 54 by having the latter caught behind by Matt Prior.
Plunkett then bowled Virat Kohli first ball and, after Stuart Broad fortunately accounted for first-innings centurion Ajinkya Rahane, India were on the ropes at 123 for four.
Although Vijay and Mahendra Singh Dhoni steadied the ship to take India to 169 for four and a lead of 145 at the close, Plunkett was delighted with his and his fellow bowlers’ performance.
The Yorkshire player, formerly of Durham, told ecb.co.uk: “I felt in good rhythm today. I bowled a fuller length that managed to swing a little bit.
“It was from the pressure the guys created and I got the just rewards with two in two balls. I am happy with that and hopefully we can come back strong tomorrow.
“It’s a good pitch, a good cricket wicket. I got my lengths slightly wrong in the first innings, but I managed to change it today. I’m glad I got them wickets.”
Plunkett started the day by lifting England to a first-innings score of 319, and a narrow lead of 24, by compiling his maiden half-century from 75 balls.
He helped the hosts reach the close as nightwatchman last night before leading an early-morning counter-attack today that at one point saw him hit four boundaries in 12 deliveries.
Plunkett believes he benefitted from playing his natural game, saying: “I came in as the nightwatchman last night and tried to line it up and do my job of staying out there.
“I came out this morning and tried to play my normal game. If the ball was there to be hit, I hit it. It was nice to get a first fifty and finish with two wickets.
“If you’re helping your team out, like Jimmy (James Anderson) and Broady (Stuart Broad) have shown over and over again, it’s nice to get that fifty and partnerships towards the end. Also get past their score and have a little lead.”
Plunkett believes the key to England winning the Test is claiming early wickets tomorrow and putting India under enormous pressure.
He added: “It’s a big session in the morning. If we come out strong and nip a few out early, it’s going to be massive.
“The wicket is going to get better and better, especially if the sun keeps baking it, but it’s a good wicket. Hopefully we can come out and nick a few early.”