The door to the England dressing room had barely swung shut by the time Haseeb Hameed found himself walking back through it, his return to Test cricket after a five-year absence having been spectacularly terminated for a golden duck.
Mohammed Siraj was fresh from extinguishing Dom Sibley with his second ball after tea and as he charged in to bowl, 30,000 people inside Lord’s held their breath in the hope that a one-time wunderkind who has rebuilt his career after a baffling slump in form might dodge the ill-fortune that is supposed to strike on Friday the 13th.
It was not to be, Hameed pressing forward with an immaculate defence down the wrong line and hearing that deathly wooden rattle behind him. Quite why Siraj felt the need to put his finger to his lips after such a brief encounter is anyone’s guess, but there was plenty of time for Hameed to stew on all this in the safety of the dressing room.
Clearly this was not a day for the romantics, even if hearts were warmed by £500,000 being raised for Ruth Strauss Foundation. And come the close England could reflect on three sessions of creditable work that, from the now traditional 23 for two, kept heads just above water at 119 for three from 45 overs in reply to India’s 364 all out.
Jimmy Anderson was responsible for keeping a relative lid on the tourists after their dominant showing on day one with typically distinguished figures of five for 62, while with bat Rory Burns and Joe Root chiselled out a stand of 85.
Burns fell before the close, trapped lbw from around the wicket by Mohammad Shami, but Root will resume in the morning on 48, with Jonny Bairstow on six for company.
The England captain had arrived out in the middle after his side’s 33rd duck in 2021 and, more worryingly, the 14th by a member of the top three.
The latter is a record for a side in a calendar year but Root offered a confident defence to deny Siraj his hat‑trick and then rolled over the form witnessed at Trent Bridge.
India’s bowlers, augmented by the recall of Ishant Sharma, had delivered a stiff examination on this sluggish surface, even if Siraj tested the patience of Virat Kohli when two confident appeals for lbw against Root resulted in reviews being burned. The second, sliding down leg like the first, led to the India captain marching out of the huddle upon seeing the first replay, not even bothering to wait for Hawk‑Eye’s projection.
A penny for the thoughts of Anderson during this tense final session, feet up in the dressing room and taking a breather after the 31st five‑wicket haul of his career had earlier hauled England off the canvas. Mike Selvey once wrote that Angus Fraser was “like Eeyore without the joie de vivre” and one suspects Anderson let out a few sighs.
That Root finds himself leaning heavily on a 39-year-old, one who needed a late fitness test to play, is in part down to an absentee crisis that has thinned out the bowling stable. But even factoring in the loss of Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes and Stuart Broad – a handy Test attack in its own right – it is mildly troubling, too.
That said, Anderson’s class endures and though 29 overs of toil may not have been the preferred outcome after his captain had won the toss and elected to bowl, his reward came when, for the seventh time in his career at Lord’s, he found himself walking off the with the match ball aloft to the sound of warm applause.
India had started out in an ominous position, 276 for three with KL Rahul resuming on 127, but through Anderson’s incisions and three of the support cast chipping in, England claimed seven wickets at a cost of 88 runs. This represented a best-case scenario, even if two catches went down and their radar for run-outs remained wonky.
By 11.07am England had landed two early punches, Rahul chipping Robinson’s second ball of the day to short cover on 129 and Anderson nicking off the out-of-sorts Ajinkaya Rahane without adding to his overnight score of one.
Sam Curran finished wicketless once more – England are no closer to working out his role in Test cricket – but there were two wickets for Mark Wood, the dangerous Rishabh Pant first feathering a catch behind on 35 at a time when he was threatening to explode, and Ravindra Jadeja the last man out slogging one in the air on 40.
In between came Moeen Ali’s 190th Test wicket, Shami fiddling to midwicket, and Anderson making light work of Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. Suddenly England’s predicament was not nearly so dire as the predictions and when Burns and Sibley survived 14 overs before tea, two full sessions had been won.
You can tell Sibley is desperately trying to get more side‑on and deliver on the orders to rotate the strike more. But when he emerged after tea on 11 and immediately chipped Siraj to short mid-wicket for the second time this series, it left a sense that his second innings will be make or break time for the opener.
It may be that Hameed is the batsman to move up should Sibley fail once more but after such a chastening initial return to the spotlight, the 24-year-old’s only thoughts will be on watching the ball more closely when he next gambols down the stairs in his pads.