THIS was dreamland stuff – destroy the opposition for just 78 and then pile on 120 without losing a wicket.
All the inquests and frustration and sledging from Lord’s last week were cast aside as England enjoyed a day of utter domination.
In their wildest wishes, captain Joe Root and head coach Chris Silverwood could not have imagined the state of play after day one of the Third Test.
Jimmy Anderson started the carnage with three early wickets before the other bowlers chimed in by crushing India’s middle and lower-order. Then England’s new-look opening pair of Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed were not separated in 42 overs.
It was the sort of opening day that comes round maybe once every five or ten years.
Melbourne 2010 (Australia 98 all out, England 157-0) and Trent Bridge 2015 (Australia 60 all out, England 274-4) spring to mind as similarly mind-boggling scorecards.
As well as England bowled in conditions offering a touch of swing and seam movement, India’s collapse was indescribably feeble and virtually inexplicable.
Momentum was surging their way after victory in the Second Test and captain Virat Kohli was on a campaign of crowing and chirping. Little seemed less likely than India’s implosion.
But not a single one of their batsmen managed even to reach 20. Extraordinary.
“We’ll never take a backward step,” promised Kohli before the match. Well, they were in flat-out reverse yesterday.
The crowd were gloating, too, singing: “Virat, Virat, what’s the score, what’s the score?”
Perhaps it was to be expected because Headingley is the ground in England that has provided most sensations over the years – be it Graham Gooch in 1991, Ian Botham and Bob Willis in 1981, Mark Butcher in 2001 or Ben Stokes exactly two years ago.
This match could yet weave another golden thread through cricket folklore in Leeds.
Don’t forget England have lost five of their last seven Tests and been outplayed in the other two.
Kohli has not played a Test match at Headingley before so he might not have known that batting under cloud can be hazardous. The ball has a tendency to wobble around.
Later, there was hardly a cloud in the sky and the Indian bowlers struggled to make the ball deviate off the straight.
So K.L.Rahul drove at his fourth ball and edged a catch behind. Cheteshwar Pujara also nicked off and then, much to Anderson’s unbridled joy following their verbal spat at Lord’s, Kohli also gave Jos Buttler a catch.
That’s 50 international innings across all formats without a century for Kohli.
Anderson’s opening spell was 8-5-6-3 and he was not required to bowl again.
It is becoming a cliche but, really, his bowling seems to be getting better and better at the age of 39. He probably deserved a five-for but Overton and Curran nabbed the late, easier wickets.
Ajinkya Rahane gave Buttler his fourth straight catch in the final over before lunch and catch No.5 was offered by Rishabh Pant. Ollie Robinson was the bowler on both occasions.
It is only the second time in history that the first five wickets in a Test innings have fallen to catches by a wicketkeeper.
Opener Rohit Sharma was sixth out when an attempted pull shot spooned straight to mid-on. That’s the third time in three Tests that Rohit has been out trying to pull.
Craig Overton and Sam Curran were both on a hat-trick in successive overs as Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, the pair who traumatised England in the Second Test, returned a golden duck apiece.
Ishant Sharma started with a nine-ball over (two no-balls and a wide) and India were never able to apply pressure to England’s openers.
Hameed scored just nought and nine in his first Test for almost five years at Lord’s but looked happier having moved from No.3 to his customary position at the top of the order.
He was busier than the man he replaced, Dom Sibley, and certainly his technique is more orthodox.
Burns played with growing freedom and once pulled Mohammed Siraj for six into the Western Terrace.
There was a pleasing tempo to the batting of Burns and Hameed. They were calm and measured but always looking for scoring opportunities and to rotate the strike.
India’s bowling lacked potency and their fielding was scrappy. Hameed was dropped left-handed by Rohit on 47 and the ball scuttled away for the boundary that took him to his half-century.
Burns also reached his fifty shortly before the close with a juicy clip to the mid-wicket boundary. There was even an overthrow from the final delivery of the day.
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