LONDON: Chris Woakes continued a superb return to England duty with a maiden Test century against India at Lord’s on Saturday as the home side took a firm grip on the match.
When bad light forced an early close on the third day, England were 357 for six in reply to India’s meagre first-innings 107 — a commanding lead of 250 runs.
Woakes was 120 not out, having shared a partnership of 189 with Jonny Bairstow (93) that was an England record for the sixth wicket in Test matches against India, beating the 171 put on by Ian Botham and Bob Taylor at Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1980.
It was a stand made all the more valuable by the fact England had slumped to 98 for four at lunch, after their latest top-order collapse threatened to undo the bowlers’ good work.
Warwickshire favourite Woakes, recalled after England omitted Ben Stokes because of a clash with his fellow pace-bowling all-rounder’s trial for affray, had missed the hosts’ 31-run win in the first Test at his Edgbaston home ground last week because of fitness concerns following knee and calf injuries.
The 29-year-old had already proved his worth with the ball by taking two for 19 on Friday, including the prize scalp of India captain Virat Kohli.
And in his 25th match at this level, Woakes surpassed his previous Test best of 66, made against Sri Lanka at Lord’s two years ago, before completing a 129-ball hundred, including 15 fours, with a pulled three off Hardik Pandya.
His innings, which has been in progress more than three-and-a-half hours, meant Woakes’s name was now on all three Lord’s honours boards that record centuries, five-wicket innings returns and 10-wicket match hauls in Tests at the ‘home of cricket’.
Woakes took six for 70 and five for 32 in a match return of 11 for 102 against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2016.
– ‘Incredible feeling’ –
“It’s hard to put into words, I suppose” Woakes told Sky Sports. “I didn’t have that (a Test century) on my radar at the start of the day.
“It’s an incredible feeling to raise your bat at Lord’s and be on that honours board,” he added.
“I went from 60 to 80 pretty quickly and all of a sudden started thinking about it. The 90s were a bit of a blur but I am so pleased to get there.”
The only sadness for England was that Bairstow did not reach three figures as well.
Instead he fell seven short when brilliantly caught one-handed by diving opposing wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik off Pandya.
Saturday’s play resumed with England yet to begin their reply after James Anderson, in overcast conditions ideal for swing bowling, had taken five for 20 on Friday following Thursday’s total washout.
By contrast, England’s innings commenced under sunny blue skies that promised to make life easier for the batsmen.
Ishant Sharma, whose Test-best seven for 44 against England sealed India’s 95-run win in the corresponding Lord’s clash four years ago, bowled the first over.
But it was new-ball partner Mohammed Shami who made the breakthrough when Keaton Jennings (11) was lbw playing across the line.
Five balls later Jennings’s fellow left-handed opener Alastair Cook (21) was out as well, caught behind off a superb Sharma delivery from around the wicket that squared him up and seamed away before finding the outside edge.
– Promising Pope –
The exit of England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer meant 20-year-old debutant batsman Ollie Pope walked out with the hosts in trouble at 32 for two.
Pope made a promising 28 before he was lbw to Pandya.
And to what became the last ball before lunch, England captain Joe Root was lbw for 19 to an off-cutter from Shami, who also had Jos Buttler (24) leg before in a stumps return of three for 74 in 19 overs.
Both off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and recalled left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav went wicketless, with India having cause to regret dropping paceman Umesh Yadav.
Woakes was for the most part admirably straight in both defence and attack, as exemplified by a classic on-drive for four off Pandya.
But he demonstrated his range with a vertical-bat flick down to fine leg when Ashwin strayed in direction.