Engand and James Anderson roar back at Headingley

A READER wrote in to The Yorkshire Post the other day in response to our article prior to the Test match that remembered the time when Fred Trueman helped to reduce India to nought for four on his Test debut at Headingley in 1952.

England's James Anderson celebrates with Rory Burns after taking the wicket of Virat Kohli of India at Emerald Headingley. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
England's James Anderson celebrates with Rory Burns after taking the wicket of Virat Kohli of India at Emerald Headingley. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

“I recall vividly Fred Trueman’s rout of the Indians, ” he wrote. “Nor do I stoop to anyone as an admirer of the great Fred Trueman. However, back in 1952 India was not the cricketing force it was to become in later times. There was no Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Dravid or Kohli who would not have rolled over as did Vijay Hazare and his men.”

Yesterday, that same reader wrote in with another letter: “Following India’s collapse in the Headingley Test, kindly save my embarrassment by not printing my earlier letter suggesting that later Indian teams would have offered more resistance to Fred Trueman than did Hazare’s men of 1952.”

Sir, one is more than happy to oblige the request (at least in terms of the letters page) and to protect the identity of your red face – in return for pinching your musings for an opening theme.

England's Haseeb Hameed bats during day one of the cinch Third Test match at the Emerald Headingley, Leeds. Picture: PA.

For not only did Kohli’s men roll over in a manner that might have embarrassed Hazare’s novices of 69 years ago, collapsing from 56-3 to 78 all out after choosing to bat before England reached 120 for nought on a remarkable first day, but at one point they also lost four wickets for no runs, tumbling from 67-5 to 67-9 in the space of six balls.

You really could not make it up, and if Trueman was looking down from heaven (where else would he be looking down from?), it is a fair bet that the words “I don’t know what’s going off out there” were muttered through plumes of pipe smoke as the mayhem unfolded.

What is it about Headingley and its enduring capacity to produce extraordinary Test cricket?

What is it about August 25, for that matter, the very day that the previous Headingley Test ended with Ben Stokes playing the innings of a lifetime? Any notion that yesterday’s action would fall well short of that drama was soon dispelled as James Anderson, “the second-finest bloody fast bowler who ever drew breath”, as Fred might have said, started the ball rolling with three wickets in the first hour, after which England never looked back.

After Joe Root lost the proverbial “good toss to lose”, with some cloud cover about and the pitch a bit tacky, India slumped to 21-3 as Anderson got busy from the Emerald Stand end.

KL Rahul was set up with inswing and then tempted to drive at a fuller delivery. Cheteshwar Pujara, once of these parts, was fatally drawn forward. When Virat Kohli edged a loose drive, presenting wicketkeeper Jos Buttler with his third catch to boot, it is doubtful whether Anderson had celebrated any of his 629 Test wickets with more enthusiasm than he did that of the India captain, who trudged off dejected.

There followed a period of attritional, hard-fought cricket that might have impressed the watching Sir Geoffrey Boycott, sat alongside the lesser-spotted Sir Gary Verity, by the way, as Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane knuckled down to add 37 in 15 overs before Rahane fell in the final over before lunch, caught by Buttler off Ollie Robinson.

It triggered a scarcely credible collapse which Robinson continued by having Rishabh Pant flashing an edge that gave Buttler his fifth and final catch, Craig Overton and Sam Curran then each claiming two wickets with successive balls.

First, Sharma toe-ended a pull to mid-on off Overton, having faced 105 deliveries for the top score of 19, then the giant pace man had Mohammed Shami caught at third slip.

Curran removed Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah lbw before Mohammed Siraj was last out, caught high at first slip by Root off Overton.

England reached 21-0 in the seven overs before tea, Burns and Haseeb Hameed holding firm after Ishant Sharma had started the innings with a nine-ball over.

After recording their third-lowest total against England, who are seeking to draw level at 1-1 in the third of this five-match series, India’s day extended along doleful lines.

Hameed, strong on the cut, drew a misfield from Jadeja in front of the West Stand that took England into the lead, and he was dropped at second slip by Sharma off Bumrah when edging the boundary that raised his fifty, although he batted very well.

Burns, who flicked and forced his runs on both sides of the wicket, followed Hameed to the half-century mark just before stumps, finishing on 52 from 125 balls with five fours and a six to his partner’s 60 from 130 deliveries with 11 fours.

For England, it was just about the perfect day.