LONDON - Murali Vijay anchored India's second innings with a painstaking fifty after England threatened to take charge of the second Test at Lord's on Saturday. India lost three wickets for five runs in 19 balls to be 123 for four -- just 99 runs in front. But by the close of the third day they were 169 for four -- 145 runs ahead but not yet a decisive lead.
Opening batsman Vijay, in for nearly five hours, was 59 not out and India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni unbeaten on 12. England's Liam Plunkett had a day to remember, scoring a Test-best 55 not out to help his side into a first-innings lead and then taking two wickets in two balls. "We're going to go hard in the morning because this is still a good cricket wicket and if we can get a few more wickets, we'll fancy our chances," fast bowler Plunkett told Sky Sports. "I thought we bowled better and my lengths were better. I do work hard on my batting and it was massive for us to pass their (India's first innings) total...I think we can chase around 270."
India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, out for 43 on Saturday, added: "It is evenly balanced and we still need some more runs. "Setting England a target of 300 would be good on this wicket because the bounce is variable and you are never comfortable batting out there." While Vijay was becalmed, fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan struck four fours. But on 31 the left-hander failed to get over the top of a cut off Ben Stokes and was well caught by Joe Root at backward point to leave India 40 for one.
By contrast, it took Vijay 57 balls to both score his first boundary and move into double figures, with a leg-glance off Stuart Broad. England had again too often bowled short on a pitch no longer the 'green top' on which captain Alastair Cook had sent India into bat after winning the toss. But when Plunkett was rewarded for pitching up from the Nursery End. First, he drew Pujara forward and had him caught behind off the outside edge to end a second-wicket stand of 78 in nearly 30 overs. Next ball Virat Kohli made the mistake of deliberately leaving a ball which came back up the eight-foot Lord's slope and was clean bowled for a golden duck. Plunkett though wasted his hat-trick delivery as Ajinkya Rahane left a ball well wide of off stump. "My hat-trick ball? It was pretty average but I didn't want to give him a floaty half-volley and I got my line wrong," explained Plunkett.
But Rahane, who made a superb 103 in the first innings, fell cheaply. He was on five when he fended at a short delivery from Broad, the ball looping down the legside to wicketkeeper Matt Prior. However, the ball had clearly hit Rahane's arm guard rather than the glove, meaning he should have remained not out. But with Indian objections meaning there was no Decision Review System this series, Rahane was unable to challenge Australian umpire Bruce Oxenford's verdict.
Vijay briefly came out of his shell to complete a 162-ball fifty with two fours in as many James Anderson deliveries, an off-drive followed by a legside clip. Earlier, Bhuvneshwar Kumar took six for 82 as he recorded his Test-best figures for the second time in as many matches. But even Kumar could not prevent England gaining a first-innings lead of 24.
MCC says sorry after Pietersen spots pitch 'mistake': Marylebone Cricket Club apologised after exiled England batsman Kevin Pietersen spotted a member of the Lord's groundstaff dragging his feet across the pitch in the ongoing second Test with India on Saturday. Pietersen made the incident public via his Twitter feed when he posted a video of groundstaff regular Shane Doherty walking up the pitch as he swept dust off the playing surface. However, Doherty was not wearing spikes or studs when the incident took place during the lunch break, so any advantage to England's bowlers, with India batting in their second innings, would have been highly unlikely. Nevertheless, Pietersen flagged up his tweet by saying: "UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!" He had earlier written: "I cannot believe what I've just seen on TV from one of the ground staff!"
Meanwhile another former England captain in Michael Vaughan later tweeted the footage was, in his opinion, a "little sniffy". But MCC, the owners of Lord's insisted nothing deliberately untoward had taken place at the north-west London ground.
"MCC admits a genuine, honest mistake -- and there was no intent to damage the pitch," the club said in a statement.
INDIA 1ST INNINGS: 295
ENGLAND 1ST INNINGS:
A Cook c Dhoni b Kumar 10
S Robson c Dhoni b Kumar 17
G Ballance c Dhoni b Kumar 110
I Bell c Jadeja b Kumar 16
J Root lbw b Jadeja 13
M Ali lbw b Vijay 32
L Plunkett not out 55
M Prior c Dhawan b Shami 23
B Stokes b Kumar 0
S Broad c Dhawan b Kumar 4
J Anderson c Rahane b Jadeja 19
EXTRAS: (b5, lb10, w2, nb3) 20
TOTAL: (all out, 105.5 overs) 319
FOW: 1-22, 2-31, 3-70, 4-113, 5-211, 6-214, 7-265, 8-276, 9-280, 10-319
BOWLING: Kumar 31-10-82-6; Shami 19-5-58-1; Sharma 24-5-61-0; Binny 10-0-45-0; Jadeja 18.5-1-46-2; Vijay 3-0-12-1
INDIA 2ND INNINGS:
M Vijay not out 59
S Dhawan c Root b Stokes 31
C Pujara c Prior b Plunkett 43
V Kohli b Plunkett 0
A Rahane c Prior b Broad 5
MS Dhoni not out 12
EXTRAS: (b15, lb4) 19
TOTAL: (4 wkts, 63 overs) 169
FOW: 1-40, 2-118, 3-118, 4-123
BOWLING: Anderson 18-7-36-0; Broad 14-5-41-1; Stokes 13-2-35-1; Plunkett 12-5-24-2; Ali 6-1-14-0
UMPIRES: Kumar Dharmasena (SRI) and Bruce Oxenford (AUS)
TV UMPIRE: Richard Illingworth (ENG)
MATCH REFEREE: David Boon (AUS)
MATCH REFEREE: David Boon (AUS)